Viewpoint: Cutting the cord

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This weekend, I invite you to celebrate a lesser-known holiday, the National Day of Unplugging. From sundown to sundown, March 23-24, people around the country will take the challenge of logging out of Facebook, ignoring their Twitter feeds, avoiding TV and yes, even putting their phones away for an entire day.

Why do we need a day like this?

A quick look around on campus is enough to see that we depend heavily on communications technology. The technology itself isn’t a bad thing. The problem lies in how attached, or even addicted, we might be to our phones, tablets and computers. As we’ve been hearing about this quite a bit in recent general conference talks, devotionals, Ensign articles and even right here in The Daily Universe, this is clearly a cause for concern.

Excessive attachment to digital devices negatively affects us in at least three ways.

First, it hinders our ability to think and understand.

Think of the times or places you get your best ideas. My guess is it’s not while you’re checking Facebook or browsing the App Store. No, it’s the moments of solitude and quiet reflection that give rise to deep understanding and creative thinking. The problem is that technology is now so readily available that we usually turn to it instead of facing the prospect of being alone with our thoughts. We prefer to distract ourselves, and as a result we give our brains less time to process the information they receive. As that time diminishes, so does our creativity and originality, as well as our ability to truly understand and remember important concepts.

Garrett Nay is a master’s student in linguistics from Orem. This viewpoint represents his opinion and does not necessarily represent the opinions of BYU, its administration or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Second, it weakens our relationships with people.

On Valentine’s Day I was sad to see a middle-aged couple (this is not a generational problem) out on a special date, giving full attention to their individual phones. Why do we go out or hang out with people if we’re just going to spend the time playing in a digital world? In the words of Jake Reilly, a student in Chicago who recently gave up digital gadgets and social media for 90 days, “What else are you looking for?” When the friend you’re texting is more important than the friend sitting right next to you, something is wrong.

Finally, it threatens our spirituality.

More and more people seem unable to sit through a one-hour church meeting without whipping out their phones and tapping away at some game. But even more important, as was taught at a recent Devotional, God can’t communicate with us if we’re too distracted, such as when we’re focused on a screen. We’re told to have an eye single to His glory (Matt. 6:22), and I think that means in part we need to put the phone completely away once in a while and give the Spirit time to talk to us without interruption.

These are serious issues demanding serious thought, and National Day of Unplugging is the perfect opportunity to consider them.

Will you take the challenge?

This means turning off your computer, keeping your phone out of reach, and living completely non-digitally for a day. Just one day. It means talking with people in person, planning ahead so you won’t need your phone to coordinate with friends, and noticing the world around you while you walk instead of focusing downward. For just one day.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying technology is evil and we should shun it completely. All I’m saying is there needs to be a balance in the way we use technology, and many of us, including me, could do better at striking that balance. NDU will give us a chance to take a step back and re-evaluate our relationship with technology, and to remind ourselves that there is much more to life than looking at a screen.

Please join me. Take the pledge and learn more at NationalDayofUnplugging.com.

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