Unplug, Go Offline, Put Your Phone Down on National Day of Unplugging

Reboot wants you to take a break from smartphones, tablets and computers for one day.

More than 2,000 people have signed up for a digital detox in San Francisco tonight.

The idea is to arrive at Broadway Studios in North Beach, check in your cell phone at the door and then go completely analog: think typewriters, board games, unplugged music, dancing, arts and crafts and even a tea lounge.

It’s all part of the fifth annual National Day of Unplugging, which wants people to take a break from technology and reconnect with each other by putting down their smartphones, tablets and computers for 24 hours.

Some describe it as a "digital sabbath."

“I think it’s really important that people take control of their technology so that it doesn't control them,” said Tanya Schevitz of Reboot, the national nonprofit that launched NDU in 2010. “This is an age of wonder and amazement with technology. But many people have lost the balance in their use of technology - so they no longer are able to sit alone and be comfortable with their thoughts."

Most people don't know how to be bored anymore, Schevitz said.

"They no longer strike up conversations with random people at a restaurant, bar or bus stop ... They don't notice the world around them," she said.

As playgrounds, dinner tables, sidewalks and cafes get filled with people texting, mailing or checking their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram obsessively, more people are constantly hearing, “Just a minute” or “Uh-huh,” Schevitz said.

The expectation that people will respond immediately to that beeping, buzzing and ringing of texts, emails and phone calls has created a society of people who are on edge and overwhelmed, Schevitz said.

NDU has turned into a worldwide movement since its inception, with over 13,000 people estimated to take part in NDU events from March 7 to 8. The unofficial participation number is expected to climb into the tens of thousands.

When Schevitz visited an eighth-grade classroom recently, students told her that the plugged-in culture was negatively impacting their relationship with their parents.

“The kids feel like they are second in importance to their parents when they see cell phones getting all the attention,” she said. “No wonder that our children are obsessed with technology.”

A recent study from Bridgewater State University shows that the number of younger children who own mobile devices is increasing.


Schevitz pointed out that being glued to phones or devices is one of the reasons pedestrian deaths were on the rise.

“The pedestrians are on their phones and the drivers are on their phones,” she said.

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“If you can’t unplug for the entire 24 hours, then at least take a step,” Schevitz said.

Former Facebook exec Randi Zuckerberg has joined forced with Reboot and will be at SXSW handing out "cell phone sleeping bags" to encourage people to put their phones to sleep.

Cell phone sleeping bags will also be handed out Saturday during a hike starting from the Lake Merced Boathouse at 10 a.m. Reboot is teaming up with the San Francisco Parks and Rec Department for the event.

“You’ll be surprised how many people use their cell phones to chat or Instagram while on a hike.” Schevitz said.

  Pictures from the fifth National Day of Unplugging in San Francisco:

Particpants at the National Day of Unplugging event in San Francisco celebrated being offline by taking a pledge. Some spent the time doing arts and crafts.


 Participants had to check in their cell phones at the entrance.


Typewriters and facepainting were a big hit at the event.

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