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National Day of Unplugging: the unseen benefits

The National Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour period over 6-7 March, encourages people to unplug and do things other than using their electronic devices. Dr Tariq Abdullah, Academic Lead in Computing and IT at the University of Derby highlights the value of disconnecting from digital devices to help you connect with yourself and your loved ones in real time.

By Dr Tariq Abdullah - 5 March 2020

‘Fracturing society’

According to a recent article in the MailOnline, Britons live in a fracturing society in which people are less likely to talk to others, feel at one with their neighbourhood, or even help their children. There is also a growing unwillingness to join political parties, professional organisations, social or sports clubs.

“Our social capital findings show that we are engaging less with our neighbours but more with social media”, said Eleanor Rees of the ONS (Office for National Statistics). The proportion of people using the internet for social networking has been steadily increasing since 2011, from under 50% to about 70% in 2019. During a typical weekday, most couples spend seven and a half hours at home together (when they’re not asleep or out at work), but only 57% of this is spent in the same room. At weekends, out of nine hours spent together, they interact for only 60%.

The origin of National Day of Unplugging

This day dates back to 2003, the main idea behind this 24-hour unplugging challenge was to give people a chance to spend time on the things that matter, like spending time with their families and doing fun activities that they normally would not do. This is something that would be useful for everyone as it can make you feel relaxed and happy, remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness.

Take some time and pledge to unplug for the day and see the benefits. On this day, try waking up at the normal time you wake up but, instead of possibly going on your phone the minute you wake up, you could get out of bed and put your phone and your electronics away. The time that you normally spend playing video games or using social media could be spent with your family, playing with your siblings or friends, or going somewhere outside without electronics for 24 hours.

You could organise a challenge among your family and friends that, if you use your electronics in the day, you are out of the challenge and the last person not using electronics could be given a prize. Think about the ways to pledge to unplug and see what positive effects it has on you.

My children, Faran and Irfan, have given me their youth perspective on National Day of Unplugging for this blog. They have pledged to unplug for the day in the hope that it will inspire others to unplug themselves. For National Day of Unplugging, you are encouraged to unplug from sundown on Friday, 6 March, to Saturday, 7 March.

Health benefits on unplugging
Having a healthy relationship with today’s technology is very important, but do you know how to unplug? Here are some scientifically proved health benefits:

  1. Reduce stress – both your brain and body need time to recover after a hard day at work, so it is not healthy being ‘online’ all the time.
  2. Discover time – think of how much time you spend watching TV, scrolling through your phone or news/social media feeds. Imagine if you stopped watching TV and scrolling through your phone you would have a lot more free time. Use this ‘free time’ to talk with friends (in person) or spend valuable time with your family.
  3. Physical health – On a normal working day, your brain, eyes, hands and arms can be hunched over an electronic device for hours and hours. Give your body a break from technology for a positive effect on your health and spend that time going out for a jog or a walk.
  4. Mental health – One in three people felt worse after visiting Facebook and felt worse before they visited it because they might have seen something that makes fun of them or it could even be bullying online. Taking a break from seeing what others have, will give you time to be thankful for what you have and you will feel less jealous of others. Social media profiles may not be an accurate representation of someone’s life, so stop comparing yourself to it.
  5. Start your day another way – We now mostly use our phones as alarm clocks, it is very tempting to hop onto social media for a good amount of time. Resist this temptation and use this time for something more beneficial (eg going for a morning run). It will make you feel good about yourself and will also motivate you to do more productive things throughout the day.

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About the author

Tariq Abdullah at desk with laptop

Dr Tariq Abdullah
Academic Lead Computing and IT and Research Fellow

Dr Tariq Abdullah has over 19 years of research and development experience within both industry and academia. He has worked in many roles within Higher Education, as a Lecturer, Programme Leader, Research Fellow and in his current role as Academic Lead in Computing and IT.

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