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Missed Connection: Take a Digital Detox

Bucking the trend of technology that allows people to tell everyone that they've checked into their local restaurant, café or bar, the creators of the National Day of Unplugging have developed a smartphone app that helps users "check out".
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Bucking the trend of technology that allows people to tell everyone that they've checked into their local restaurant, café or bar, the creators of the National Day of Unplugging have developed a smartphone app that helps users "check out" of the internet altogether. The app ironically will use technology to shut down technology.

Think of it as rehab for the smartphone. By using technology, Reboot's "Sabbath Manifesto" app is intended to spur a massive movement away from technology on the National Day of Unplugging, March 4-5, 2011, and beyond, and a return to the values inherent in a modern day of rest: reconnecting with family, friends and the world around them.

The inverse of tools like FourSquare that allow you to check into a venue or location and notify friends where you are, the new Sabbath Manifesto app, for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and other smartphones, announces to your social networks and online community through Facebook and Twitter that you are unplugging and will not be available online. Users can also sign up for text alerts that will remind them on Friday to unplug.

Reboot, a non-profit organization that aims to reinvent Jewish rituals and traditions, developed the National Day of Unplugging (NDU) to encourage young, hyper-connected, and frequently frantic people of all backgrounds to re-embrace the ancient beauty of a day of rest. It runs for the 25 hours from sundown Friday, March 4, to sundown, Saturday, March 5, 2011.

"No program we have ever launched has had as much resonance with a mass audience as the National Day of Unplugging," said Lou Cove, Executive Director of Reboot. "The desire for a reprieve from the frenetic, always-on existence that smartphones and the internet has enabled, is palpable. People are craving a discrete, sanctioned moment in time to unplug. They are seeking permission to disconnect without fear of missing an urgent work email or a breaking news story and return to what's most essential in our lives: community, meaning and belonging."

In our tech-drenched society, it is considered normal practice for people to be on their smartphones checking e-mail, texting and Googling when they are with their kids, at a dinner party, hiking or even during a romantic moment.

AOL's 2010 study on email usage found that 47 percent of respondents are hooked on email, 59 percent check email in the bathroom and 60 percent check email on vacation. Kids are afflicted too. In a recent survey by security software maker AVG of children between the ages of two and five from the United States and countries around the world, 19 percent of parents reported that their kids could access a Smartphone application but only 9 percent said their kids could tie their shoes. And a 2010 Nielsen study found that teenagers are sending or receiving an average of 3,339 texts a month.

The NDU is not anti-technology. It recognizes the value and importance of technology in today's world. The idea really is to take a pause from the technology that consumes our lives and reconnect with the people and community who are all around us but are lost in the noise of today's relentless deluge of information.

This year, Reboot has set up partnerships to encourage people to unplug.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, the Jewish Museum in New York, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia are offering special deals for the 2011 National Day of Unplugging (NDU) to those who tuck their phones into a special cell phone sleeping bag when they walk in the door. And, the Web's most popular volunteering network, is highlighting service opportunities to encourage NDU participants to "Unplug and Give Back" with one of its 75,000 participating nonprofit organizations.

The NDU, rooted in the tradition of the Sabbath, is guided by Reboot's Sabbath Manifesto, a modern spin on the ancient notion of a day of rest that encourages people to slow down their lives throughout the year by embracing its 10 principles once a week: Avoid Technology; Connect With Loved Ones; Nurture Your Health; Get Outside; Avoid Commerce; Light Candles; Drink Wine; Eat Bread; Find Silence; Give Back.

"The NDU offers a needed respite," said Dr. Hilarie Cash, co-founder of the ReSTART rehabilitation camp for internet addicts in Fall City, Wash. "When people take a break it gives them that reminder of what it is like to live in the world, to be around people and not be constantly distracted."

You can sign up for the movement and receive ideas for how to unplug with your family and friends at

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