Visitors to the Contemporary Jewish Museum on a Saturday walk in to catch the Curious George exhibit. Along with their ticket, each gets a free “sleeping bag” for their cellphone.
The woman at the counter explains that it’s the National Day of Unplugging, when people are encouraged to take a break from technology. That means turning off the phone and computer and spending time outside, with friends or volunteering in the community.
The idea comes from Reboot, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to “reinvent Jewish culture and tradition for the new generation,” says Tanya Schevitz, a San Franciso-based spokesperson for the group.
Reboot created a 10-point Sabbath Manifesto last spring, designed to help people slow down in an increasingly hectic world. At the top of the list: Avoid technology.
In line at the museum, Linda Appel says she likes the idea. “Jewish museum, Jewish sabbath, we should be unplugged.”
Sona Manzo says she wishes she could hand out the sleeping bags, designed by local artist Jessica Tully, to the Girl Scout troop she leads. “They keep getting text messages.”
Her teenage daughter shakes her head.
At Coffee Bar, Saturday afternoon looks just like the rest of the week: It’s packed with headphone-wearing patrons who only look up from their screens to see who just walked in.
So many people use computers there that the cafe has designated certain tables laptop-free.
Some customers, like Travis Brooks, who works in a physics lab, say it’s a good idea to unplug. “I would take a vacation. Go backpacking, spend it outside.”
He’s a fan of technology, he says, but admits it’s possible to overdo it.
Jae Lee, a student at the Academy of Art University, agrees. “I try to stay away from my computer sometimes. But it’s tough.”
If he were to unplug for a day, it would have to be a Sunday. What would he do? Read a book or spend time with family and friends.
Christopher Leukezik, who works for a tech startup, spends 18 hours a day online.
“I don’t feel bad about being plugged in,” he says. “Some people paint, some people create websites.”
Still, Reboot’s Schevitz says that technology’s heaviest users are those who could most use a temporary digital detox.
“They are the people who really need to disconnect. They feel they can’t survive without technology, and they need to realize that it is a wonderful, liberating feeling.”