Last Friday, 1st March, was a national day of unplugging. Well at least it was in the US. In the 1990’s getting unplugged meant rock stars like Eric Clapton moved away from the embellishment of their electrical set-up and returned to acoustic guitars with a stripped back, purer sound, and made some stunning music.
While some of today’s music stars do perform unplugged, in the 21st century going unplugged has different connotations. It’s about disconnecting to reconnect. Going offline, taking some time away from the ubiquitous screens that have insinuated themselves into our lives. Returning our attention to, arguably, fundamentally more important things.
I was unaware of this national day of unplugging because, the irony is that I already was. I’d spent the week at Graig Ddu, also known as the cottage in the forest, just being – completely unplugged. No mobile reception, no television, no WiFi. Part of me wished that there was still no electricity. I was cocooned in the complete stillness of the place. In spite of that week being the warmest winter week ever recorded and there was not a breath of wind to stir the tops of the trees, the stillness was much deeper than that. There is always a tangible, unpolluted purity at the cottage regardless of the weather.
I spent the week with the privilege of living to my own rhythm, time passing as it chose. I was ensconced in my own world and thoughts with nothing and no-one to distract me from whatever I chose to do. The luxury of pleasing myself.
Unplugging from tech isn’t new or news anymore. Just plug in and go online to discover the plethora of studies about the damage that EMF (electrical magnetic frequencies) could be doing to us all and the multitude of benefits of stepping away into solitude – or ‘scrolitude’ (my word for solitude from screens).
According to one researcher, today’s technology could be compared to the arrival of the cigarette centuries ago. We won’t know for many years the cumulative damage that it may be doing. The difficulty is that we can’t do without this technology, whereas cigarettes, though they are addictive, they aren’t a necessity.
While we’ve all heard the message by now, that unplugging and going offline is good for us, it’s certainly not time to be using it for wrapping our chips in. Like the marketing messages that bombard and overload us on a daily basis, most of us do need to hear some things many times before the message begins to sink in and we give it a higher value.
Like with so many things, we don’t know what we don’t know until we’ve tried it.