On the Seventh Day, We Unplug: How and Why to Take a Tech Sabbath

Technology can be a boon or bane, depending on how we use it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “busyness” and spend every day connected with our phones, social media networks, email inboxes etc. Busy-ness is not always productive! Taking intentional tech sabbats – taking time for family and personal pursuits – leaves us refreshed and focused when it comes to productivity after those periods are over.

The “sabbath manifesto” is a document that provides a detailed explanation of why and how to take a tech sabbath.

The typical American watched 13.6 hours of television every day in 2012. That number is predicted to climb to 15.5 by 2015. These estimates take into account media multitasking, such as listening to music while reading email, allowing you to consume more than one hour of media in a 60-minute period. Surprisingly, those 13.6 hours do not include any time spent watching television at work.

Essentially, the majority of us consume a deluge of media on a daily basis equal to the amount of hours we are awake. We’re connected in if we’re awake.

We ingest this never-ending stream of information through television and radio, as well as our computers, cellphones, and tablets. These metal and wire squares have become our constant friends, ensuring that we never spend a minute without something to occupy our time. Consider how much of a day in your life would be spent gazing at a screen if you were watching a movie. When you think about it, it’s a little unsettling.

Technology has provided us with several advantages, but it also has drawbacks. It may detract from our productivity, instill a stressful expectation of constantly being on call for work, and cause FOMO.

It also leads to a serious case of reliance. Many college students described their attachment to their phones and computers as an addiction, and noted that going without their devices made them feel restless, bored, anxious, lonely, and isolated in a study where they were asked to abstain from consuming any media for 24 hours and then write about the experience. Many people missed their music and struggled to concentrate without it; the silence was deafening.

How would you feel if you had to disconnect from your technology for 24 hours? Why don’t you find out? Why not make it a weekly routine rather than a one-time experiment?

We Unplug on the Seventh Day: Taking a Tech Sabbath

A small group of Jewish artists, authors, filmmakers, and media professionals set out in 2003 to discover a method to slow down in an increasingly fast-paced society. They created The Sabbath Manifesto, a creative endeavor aimed at persuading individuals to take a weekly day off from electronics. The concept of a Tech Sabbath derives from an old religious one; in the Old Testament, God rests after creating the world for six days, and then tells his people to do the same: “six days thou shalt labour, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in plowing season and in harvest thou shalt rest.”

Many of us never entirely relax from our professional job on any day of the week these days, particularly when technology has enabled us to remain “open 24/7.” We’re still hooked into the same electronics we’ve been using 24/7 Monday through Friday, even if we manage to put all work aside on the weekend. We get up, flop down in front of a screen, and go to bed, as if it were Groundhog Day. Repeat the process of rinsing, washing, and rinsing.

 

Taking a weekly Tech Sabbath helps us to move away from the never-ending cycle of the sameness. It’s a practice that forces us to go outside of our comfort zones, to try new things and employ other regions of our brain. It restores and rejuvenates our thoughts and spirits in this way. It gives us the impetus to unplug our connected brains from the online matrix and experience the delights of the real world.

According to the book of Genesis, as God concluded his work on the sixth day of creation, he took time to look about and enjoy what he had created. He just resumed the creative process after that. When we take a Tech Sabbath, we stop creating and instead spend time enjoying and appreciating the magnificent things around us, whether they are our own creations — friendships, children, a hearty loaf of bread we baked ourselves; mankind’s creations – art, wine, books; or the natural creations just outside our door. It’s also an opportunity to recognize our gratitude for the technology we’re unplugging from; a Tech Sabbath may serve as a reminder that what might seem like a burden is really an incredible gift.

We feel revitalized to begin creating again as another week starts as we reconnect with the people, places, and things we can touch, smell, and truly absorb in.

How to Take a Tech Sabbath

A man see buzzer sound illustration.

While the Sabbath Manifesto’s creators are Jewish, they welcome people of all faiths to engage in a weekly “tech fast.” It’s a concept that cuts across religious lines and benefits everyone. It might be an addition to your present religious Sabbath or a stand-alone ritual. If a Tech Sabbath seems like something you’d want to try, here are some pointers on how to make it a habit.

Start with a whole “Input Deprivation Week.” Consider undertaking a whole “Input Deprivation Week,” as mentioned in yesterday’s piece about taking action, if you feel particularly hooked to your gadgets and that this digital “addiction” is really hindering your life. After you’ve completed your 7-day media fast, employ a weekly Tech Sabbath as a maintenance plan to keep your relationship with technology in check.

Choose the time and day that is most convenient for you. From approximately sunset on Friday through the coming of darkness on Saturday evening, the Jewish Sabbath lasts around 24 hours. This period is ideal for a Tech Sabbath since it falls towards the conclusion of the week, when you may be itching to shut your laptop and disconnect from the digital tentacles that have encircled you. It also allows you to check your phone/email on Saturday night, so you don’t feel completely cut off for the day (as you would if your Sabbath ran from, say, the time you got up on Saturday to when you got up Sunday morning).

 

The disadvantage of a Saturday Sabbath is that it’s commonly a day for doing errands and socializing with friends, which necessitates the use of computers and phones to seek for places online and make social arrangements. Sunday, therefore, could be the best option, given it’s usually a more laid-back day.

Simply choose a day and duration that best fits your schedule and psychological requirements.

Choose the amount of technology abstinence that suits you best. For everyone, a Tech Sabbath does not have to imply the same thing. Maybe you want to go all out and leave your microwave at home. Maybe you still use your phone, but solely to keep in touch with your grown-up children. Abstain from technology in the method that seems the most restorative to you.

Make preparations ahead of time. When I’ve gone camping, I’ve had unintentional Tech Sabbaths and found it simple to leave my technology at home and not even check my phone, which I’ll carry for safety’s sake. So I felt completing one at home on a typical weekday wouldn’t be that difficult. I was mistaken.

First, as previously said, you’ll be amazed how frequently you need to use the internet to hunt for information. You realize you tossed the yellow pages and have no idea how to go someplace or what hours a company is open. If you’re planning to hang out with other people, you won’t be able to coordinate when and where you’ll meet up if you don’t use your phone at all. So, the day before, attempt to think of any things you’ll need to know and, if possible, solidify your preparations.

This may be tough, which is why it’s best to spend your Tech Sabbath doing activities that are both relaxing and restorative, rather than traveling about town and coordinating your schedule with others. The Sabbath Manifesto sensibly advocates avoiding engaging in any kind of commerce, since taking a vacation from everything business-related – even if you’re not the one doing the labor – provides the most complete relaxation from your daily routine.

Know what you’re going to do. The computer was right there, enticing me, which was the second thing I found tough about conducting an at-home Tech Sabbath. You’ll have an urge to glance at your gadgets during your Tech Sabbath, so make a plan for productive tasks to do instead. The authors of the Sabbath Manifesto suggest interacting with loved ones, meditating, cooking a home-cooked meal, and doing community duty. Writing genuine letters, playing board games with your family, going for walks, and exploring a new interest are all potential Tech Sabbath activities. Even better if these activities include leaving the home – and the urge to check your electronic devices – behind. Take a bike ride, have a picnic, or read a book in the park, for example.

 

When possible, combine a Tech Sabbath with time spent in nature. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve cognitive ability and mood. Combining the energizing impacts of a tech fast with the restorative affects of nature results in a rejuvenating double whammy.

Set aside some time for stillness. During a Tech Sabbath, one thing you should always plan on doing is… nothing. How often do we take time out of our busy lives to daydream or think? It’s quite OK if our mind-wandering sessions go into unpleasant area (as they often do). Spend some time combing through your mind’s knots, wherever they may go. “You need to acquire an ability to simply be yourself and not be doing anything,” Louis CK says astutely. That’s what phones are robbing us of: the capacity to just sit. That’s what it is to be a human.” You’ll never be totally happy if you never let yourself feel completely unhappy because you’re continually pushing that empty sensation away by staring at your phone, according to CK. The Tech Sabbath is your opportunity to break free from this limbo condition in which we’re continuously diverting our attention away from our sensations by browsing from one website to the next. It’s an opportunity to just be present in the moment.

Listen to our podcast, which argues the case for a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week lifestyle:

 

Do you like the illustrations in this guide? Then our book The Illustrated Art of Manliness is for you! Get a copy from Amazon.

Ted Slampyak created the illustrations.

 

 

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