Newsletter #534 – Digitally Unplugged

Until recently I had never heard of Baratunde Thurston. He’s a best-selling author, stand-up comedian, consultant, businessman, and New York Times columnist whose friends have called him “the most connected man in the world.” He writes about loving his devices, digital services, and never-ending connections with the global network. But the more connected he became, the more Thurston was aware of “the price we pay: lack of depth, reduced accuracy, lower quality, impatience, selfishness and mental exhaustion to name a few. In choosing to digitally enhance, hyperconnect, and constantly share our lives, we risk not living them.” For Thurston, “life was crazy” so he decided to completely disconnect for 25 days.”  His experience is told in the cover story of Fast Company magazine (July/August, 2013.)

A woman unplugs an electrical cordPerhaps this article has little relevance to most of us. We’re not teenagers or college students addicted to our devices. But are we as free as we think? How many of us would be willing to unplug for almost a month? The magazine editor notes that we all value our technological connections, even when we realize that “the triumph of digital culture hasn’t changed the fact that nothing beats face-to-face interaction with the depth and spontaneity that we can’t match via email, Skype, texting or video conferencing.” During his digital sabbatical, Thurston slowed down and rediscovered relaxation, reading, concerts and leisurely times with friends.

How do we keep connected and updated without being captured and controlled by the devices and messages that we love and sometimes hate? Here are suggestions:

  • Consistently unplug for shorter periods of time: Sundays, evenings after 8 pm, during church services, times when we are in meetings or in restaurants. Maybe the height of rudeness is checking messages when we are meeting or having a meal with someone.
  • Try making this a family rule: no devices including television allowed during mealtimes. What does this mean if you can’t do this?
  • Try an unplugged weekend or even a vacation. Recently my wife and I took a two-week trip and left computers and cell phones at home so we wouldn’t be tempted. We loved it.
  • Ponder how technological devices are adversely impacting your life.

What are other ways to keep the benefits without being controlled by digital devices? Please comment.


  1. For technology to work for us, we need to recognize and set boundaries for its use. I appreciate and agree with your recommendations to turn off all electronics during meals. We do not answer any phone calls during meals.
    Kids electronics should be turned in at night and parents should turn theirs off on a consistent basis.
    Meetings and play time should not be interrupted by electronics either.
    If we set boundaries and keep those on a daily basis, electronics will no longer consume us. We will have the discipline to use them wisely and hold one another accountable.


  2. Unplugging at times seems a great idea! Few seem to recognize today that our digital addiction often results in serious rudeness.When I respond to digital communications, interrupting a conversation, meal, meeting, etc., I am conveying the message that whoever just paged, called, texted, etc., is more important than those whose company I now have. No doubt at times that is true, but mostly it is dismissive of whoever else is present.



  3. Perfectly agree with you. Technology is replacing and displacing relationships and TRUE (HUMAN) CONNECTIONS.


  4. You offer some great suggestions and I too have felt the pull of these devices. One other thing I would add is to pay attention to emails, texts, and voice mails from people we know and love and respond to them warmly in a timely manner!


  5. During lenten season, I did 7 weeks without Facebook — and since then, I have spent very little time, using FB from time to time to make “public announcements” but no longer scroll through pages and pages of irrelevant contributions. The waste of time has som addictive Qualities, though: not looking makes me feel I am missing something. In fact, I am not …


  6. Unplugging is part of my Sabbath discipline too. It is great to disconnect so I can ultimately connect to the Lord. All of the messages are still there too! (For good and bad)


  7. Hi Gary, How are you? Trust that you are fine.  By the way, the latest newletter I received is on August. I wonder about September newsletter. Is there something happen with the IT issue? 

    Blessings, Sharen Winar  


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