National Day of Unplugging Interview with Tanya Schevitz, National Unplug Day Organizer

The National Day of Unplugging is not a communist conspiracy to disrupt the world technology market.


That’s our takeaway from a Friday morning interview with Tanya Schevitz, the National Communications Manager for an organization called Reboot, who started the National Day of Unplugging 5 years ago.

According to Tanya, the day consists of “unplugging” from technology from sundown on Friday, march 7th – sundown on March 8th, offers people an opportunity to reconnect with physical reality and the people they care about. Here’s what she has to say about selfie culture, 1,000 mile sandwiches, and waiting at the bus stop.

Pacific54: What are your numbers like for participants in Florida?
Tanya: So far, we’ve had 2,290 people from Florida log on to our website this year.

How about in Miami?
In the past year, we’ve had 495 visitors from Miami.

This is a worldwide organization?
Yes, worldwide we have more than 200 community partners promoting events that over 13,000 people will participate in. And we estimate that 10s of thousands of individuals will participate in their own way.

National Unplug Day 2014

Any partners in Miami?
Yes, we have a partner in the Center For The Advancement of Jewish Education in Miami.

National Unplug Day 2014

Is this an effort to disrupt the world economy?
No. We just want people to be more mindful of their technological use and digital devices. People are overwhelmed by the expectation that they can be reached by anybody anywhere at any time. You don’t have to respond to every ding, and every beep. We are not at all anti-technology. We actually use it in our work quite a bit. Except when we shut down of course.

Does it bother you that somewhere somebody won’t know what somebody else who lives a thousand miles away had for lunch?
No! It absolutely does not bother me. It bothers me that someone feels the need to tell me what they had for lunch when they’re a thousand miles away.

National Unplug Day 2014

What happens when you don’t get to see pictures of cats doing funny stuff for 24 hours?
You find something more important to do. People get stuck in a rabbit hole of mindless entertainment. Just shut down and go outside. Take a hike. Or look into your partner’s eyes over a glass of wine. I don’t know who out there feels better about their life after spending an hour on Facebook looking at cats doing flips. I mean, occasionally it’s nice, but if you rely on it constantly, it becomes a hollow experience.

National Unplug Day 2014

Is there a terms of service to your pledge?
No. It’s up the individual. Just try it. Take a step toward balance in your life with technology. If you can do it for 24 hours, awesome! If not, that’s ok. It’s an ongoing project to do throughout the year. Once is not enough.

Where will Yahoo get its front page news if nobody uses Reddit for a day?
I think the world will survive.

Are you by chance Communist?
I’m not Communist. No.

National Unplug Day 2014

In Miami, the most superficial city in America, what are people supposed to do without selfies?
People should look at each other instead of at a camera while they take a picture of themselves, or at pictures of people looking at cameras taking pictures of themselves. Instead of looking at sleeves, people should at each other face to face.

What do you recommend that people do while they wait at the bus stop?
They should look around and notice the world. They should talk to the other people at the bus stop. Nobody talks to strangers anymore. People get uncomfortable just being in a group of people they don’t know. People use their phones as shields from reality.

National Unplug Day 2014

What is so great about regular reality anyway?
I went into an 8th grade class, and the students told me how much it hurt to be ignored by their own parents when they go to tell them about something important to them and their mom or dad is too busy writing an email or browsing Facebook to even look up at them. That’s heart breaking.

What’s next, a day without television?
No, that’s not coming from us. We focus on devices that really disconnect people from each other at an extreme level. TV is a distraction. It’s not the same thing as a machine that goes with you everywhere you go.

What are you supposed to do if you have a really great idea?
You should write it down on piece of paper.

National Unplug Day 2014

If you see something funny happen in front of you, what are you supposed to do?
You should laugh. Just laugh. You dont have to share it with the world. The entire world doesn’t need to know about every little funny insight or moment you experience.

What are you supposed to do with your hands at a concert?
Raise them in the air. Do it like we used to do it. Put up your lighter, not your phone. Just enjoy the concert. Clap!