It’s difficult to imagine life before smartphones, but I’m fairly certain it existed. Now our attention spans are shorter, our mental faculties – memory in particular – have been dulled like a knife used to cut frozen spareribs, and we let strangers make our decisions for us when they review products we’re considering purchasing or driving our Uber. While I am not the most savvy nor shackled by the technology in my life, I do notice the worrying impact it has on the reward system of my brain and the brains of the people I care about. No one wants to feel ignored by a guest whose nose is buried in social media, and I would hope that even fewer people would want to be that guest.
To counteract the bad habits we have slowly been developing around technology over the last decade or so, I propose we all take a day out from time to time to treat ourselves. That doesn’t mean buying a six-dollar piece of cake and Instagramming it with a hashtag about how it isn’t what we usually eat (#cheatday). What I mean is to, for twenty-four hours this summer, refrain from using your smartphone, computer, tablet, and anything else that has a screen and can connect us with strangers. Unplugged Day is a day for you to just be in the world, without the demands of email and notification systems. Unplugged Day is not for your avatar; Unplugged Day is for you.
If you’re finding it hard to come up with things to do that don’t require the internet, you’re not alone. Luckily, deep in the darkest recesses of your brain, you know how to function in the world without a device. To get you started on your epic Unplugged Day, here are some ideas:
Take a walk in nature. Go to the mountains, the forest, the ocean, wherever there is a natural habitat that is accessible to you. Listen to the birds, observe the animals, and stop to smell the roses. You don’t have to use the internet to identify every plant and tree, you can just enjoy being in the majestic presence of nature.
Get in the car, put on your favorite music, and drive somewhere you’ve never been before. Bring some water in case you get thirsty, and a paper map or an atlas so that if you get lost you can exercise your navigation skills. This will not only take you on an adventure to an unfamiliar place, it will help to revive the mental faculties that have been dulled by the convenience of an always connected lifestyle.
Go to a restaurant without reading the reviews. You might be pleasantly surprised. And if you find yourself regretting not bringing a camera to capture the presentation of your plate, make a mental note to return.
Cook something without using a recipe. Gather the ingredients you want to use and let your culinary know-how and intuition guide you to a meal. Go with your gut on this one. I can’t guarantee the result will be good, but you’re likely to learn something in the process.
Talk to a stranger. This can be on a park bench, at a bus stop, anywhere during the course of the day when you have a moment to chat and there’s someone there to have a conversation with. The world is a much nicer place than the media would have you believe, and talking to a stranger can reinforce that for both of you. Strangers can teach us about things we know nothing about, and can remind us that there are other perspectives in the world.
How did you spend your day without technology? Share your own ideas for an epic Unplugged Day in the comments below.