New York Times op-ed: Turn Off Your Phone for Thanksgiving, by David Leonhardt:
This week, Americans will endure flight delays, traffic jams and other logistical miseries to spend time with family and friends. And when the holiday weekend is ending, many will lament that they don’t get to spend enough time with those relatives and friends.
But during the weekend itself, these same lamenters will spend a lot of time ignoring the people around them and distractedly staring into their phones. They will get a notification and disappear down a digital rabbit hole of Facebook posts, text messages and fantasy-football updates. They will monitor the comments on the photos they just posted, instead of engaging with the human beings in those photos.
Many of us have a complicated relationship with our phones. We enjoy them in the moment. Yet when we reflect on all the time we spend looking at a tiny screen, we feel lousy about it. We pine for a less addictive relationship with the online world.
So let me make a suggestion for this Thanksgiving weekend: Turn off your phone, and keep it off for a full 24 hours. I predict you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll like it.
About a month ago, my wife and I decided that our family would spend a Saturday without the internet, a practice known as a Tech Shabbat (a reference to the Jewish day of rest). I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it, I’ll admit, and our kids were even less sure.
But it was wonderful. We hung out with friends, without distraction. We never had to ask, guiltily, “Sorry, what’d you say?” because we had been only semi-listening. In between scheduled activities, we took a walk and played a board game, Settlers of Catan. I spent time thinking about long-term projects instead of replying to unimportant emails. It felt productive, rejuvenating and, yes, fun. ...
Part of an advance plan is telling friends and colleagues that you’re unplugging for 24 hours. They will probably respect you for it. Margaret Diddams, the provost of Wheaton College in Illinois, doesn’t check her email on Sundays. Her colleagues know to reach her on her phone if an urgent problem comes up. Most problems, of course, are not urgent.
I recognize this approach will be harder for teenagers, who have grown up with texting. But they may need a break more than anyone.
Perhaps most important, make sure that your Tech Shabbat includes a big dose of joy. Shlain’s family starts its 24 tech-free hours by eating a rollicking Friday dinner with friends. If you’re taking your first Tech Shabbat and need to win over a skeptic in the family, you could go out to a favorite restaurant for a meal.
The beauty of turning off your phone this holiday weekend is that there are so many joyful alternatives. Take a hike or play touch football with relatives or friends. Go with them to a museum or local bookstore. Cook an ambitious recipe.
And take a few minutes to give thanks, which is a whole lot easier when you aren’t staring into a screen.