Lately, I’ve been experimenting with taking one day each week away from work completely. You might think this would be an easy task as there’s a “weekend” each week that allegedly offers up two full days of rest. And yet, as I work at home, the shiny big screen of the iMac beckons at all hours, and I am often in front of its white glow the first thing every morning and the last thing at night.
So, being that I am Jewish — though not very religious — I decided to shut down the computer each Friday night at sunset until Saturday at sunset, the traditional time of the Jewish Sabbath. I make exceptions when I need to get directions or check for a personal email. I still use my cell phone but try to limit it to personal calls only. While this day of technological rest can be a difficult routine, it has allowed me to stretch my time, spend more hours outside and be with people more in face-to-face settings.
And I’m not alone. The concept of a “Technology Sabbath” is becoming more widespread, both in religious circles and among bloggers and media people who are overwhelmed with the always-on nature of the broadband Internet and smartphones. And that overwhelming feeling is exacerbated by instant messaging, social networking and services such as Twitter, that allow us to do more informal communications electronically rather than in person.
Back in 2001, students at the Christian liberal arts school Seattle Pacific University took a week-long Technology Sabbath and only used technology for classwork. The Seattle Times reported that students started talking more in person rather than relying on frequent emails, played dodgeball instead of video games, and met in a “live chat room.” Could it be? “Chat” from mouths and a “room” with real walls?
As I started taking my own Sabbaths each Saturday, blogger/author Ariel Meadow Stallings was starting a public version of something similar called 52 Nights Unplugged (with its own blog, naturally), in which she planned to unplug from the Internet, DVDs and cell phone every Tuesday night for a year. According to her rules, Stallings allows herself to use a digital camera, iPod and receive phone calls.