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It’s a holiday to unplug your phone Friday

If you’re reading this, you probably failed.

Shoppers use their smartphones as they wait in line for a Uniqlo clothing store to open in New York, September 22, 2017.
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Welcome to the National Day of Unplugging. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already failed.

Taking place from sundown to sundown March 1 to March 2, the National Day of Unplugging is described by its creators as a “24-hour global respite from technology.” The project is tethered to the Jewish Sabbath and is the brainchild of the Jewish nonprofit Reboot, which is based in New York. It’s an outgrowth of the group’s Sabbath Manifesto, “an adaptation of our ancestors’ ritual of carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones.”

While the National Day of Unplugging originated with a Jewish organization, the invitation is for anyone and everyone to get involved. The premise is pretty simple: The sun goes down and you shut off your technology and, you know, go out and enjoy the world or something until the sun goes down the next day. According to the day’s organizers, 112,000 people have joined the movement. This is its 10th year.

Some apps marked the start of the day by … sending notifications to users’ phones telling them about the pseudo-holiday. Some people on Twitter noted the irony and made jokes.

But if the sun was still up when the notification was sent out, then that one is technically allowed.

The dating app Hinge is taking advantage of the day as a marketing opportunity. It’s encouraging users to get off their phones and — gasp! — meet dating prospects in real life. It’s partnering with the Freehand Hotel Group to offer in-person meetups at bars in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami on Friday. If that sounds like something you might be into, Elite Daily laid out how it works. There are free drinks involved, and phones are “discouraged,” not barred. Maybe bring a pen anyway.

Shutting off your phone for a sec is probably not a terrible idea

There are worse things in the world than shutting off your phone, computer, or television for a day. In fact, it will probably be good for you.

There is a lot of evidence that dependence on your phone is less than great for your health — it can be bad for your vision and stress level, and dangerous for drivers and pedestrians, and it can affect your memory, attention span, and emotions. As Vox’s Julia Belluz recently laid out, the science on the effects of cellphone radiation and health is complex, including when it comes to potentially causing cancer.

And taking a phone timeout, not just for a day but in your overall life, is probably a solid idea. Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone, spoke with Vox about the issue last year. She explained why becoming more conscious of our phone habits — and trying to change them — is a good idea:

One of the most powerful things is to start framing this issue differently. Not just “we have a problem.” That makes us think we need to cut back, which carries with it the implication that you’re denying yourself something pleasurable. It’s like going on a diet.

It’s more useful to switch the language around and realize that when you’re on your smartphone, you’re not paying attention to anything else in your life. Your life is what you pay attention to. When you are on your phone, your phone is your life. If you ask: The time I’m spending on my phone — what is that taking away from? And you start to think: When I’m on my phone, I’m not spending time with my friends in real life. I’m not talking to my kid. I’m not paying attention to my partner. I’m not reading a book. I’m not doing all these things I enjoy. Then your phone goes from a source of pleasure to a distraction. It’s a reward to yourself to reevaluate your relationship with your phone.

We’ve never taken a step back to take a look at what we want our relationship with our phone to be.

24 hours off your phone probably won’t fix you. Also, it’s cold outside.

Whether or not you participate in National Unplugging Day, in general, all of us being on technology a little bit less is probably — okay, fine, definitely — a good idea. Lest we all turn into a viral photo or meme.

Of course, there’s some irony in me, a person who writes on the internet and whose livelihood depends on people not disconnecting, recommending shutting off technology. The same for Hinge. It’s all great and fun to have two hours with strangers at a bar on Friday, but the app’s business model depends on people swiping.

And it’s cold outside in a lot of the country, which is also a fair point to make. I would love to go sit in a park and chat with friends today — but it snowed this morning in Brooklyn. Outside gallivanting is not a super fun place to be.

So unplug, don’t unplug, but more broadly, give your technology habits a think. If you get an alert on unplugging post-sundown, the app maker, you, and probably a lot of other people are breaking the rules.

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