Taking Time to Unplug at Attractions
From sundown on Friday, March 4 to sundown on Saturday, March 5, the world will celebrate the 13th annual National Day of Unplugging. Started in 2009 by a group that organized tech-free dinners, this day emphasizes the benefits of detaching from devices.
“They were well ahead of their time because the first iPhone wasn’t released until 2007,” says Kim Cavallo, executive director and board chair of Unplug Collaborative, the nonprofit that organizes the awareness campaign. “Taking part in this day is a great way to eliminate phubbing, which is ignoring the real person in front of you in favor of your phone or other mobile devices.”
Advantages of Screen-Free Breaks
Social distancing during the pandemic may have decreased the chance of infection, but many suffered from the side effects of loneliness and isolation. According to a study by researchers at Brown University and Boston University, 32.8% of adults experienced prominent depressive indicators in 2021.
Unplugging allows people to feel emotions and physical sensations not felt when scrolling, playing games, or participating in other online activities, says Julie Levin, MFT, who has a counseling practice in Pleasant Hill, California.
“Feeling those emotions and sensations gives us valuable information that we need to take care of ourselves—from feeling sleepy to needing a hug,” Levin says. “Taking time out teaches us to stop neglecting ourselves.”
Spending some of that mental vacation laughing has positive effects on the brain, as does sunlight and social connections, Levin explains.
“Thrill rides make us laugh. They release endorphins,” she says. “Participating in that experience with others amplifies the good feelings.”
Attractions Where People Bond
Sharing laughs together at the National Comedy Center is a wonderful way to forget the outside world and put aside emails, texts, phone calls, and social media, promises Gary Hahn, vice president, marketing and communications at the Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York.
“Visitors can try their hand at stand-up comedy in our Comedy Karaoke Lounge, where they can perform some of the most popular stand-up routines of all time in front of their friends and family,” Hahn says. “In our ‘Draw a Cartoon’ experience, budding artists and animators learn how to create their own cartoon character. Friends and family can face off on our ‘Laugh Battle’ as they deliver jokes to each other and score points each time their opponent smiles or laughs.”
Levin says she also feels these experiences are valuable for mindfulness and mental health.
“If I were spending the day at an amusement park, consciously choosing to keep my hands off my phone, I would use that day to practice a lot of mindfulness,” she says. “I’d deliberately enjoy the sounds of people screaming on roller coasters, feel my own body respond to G-forces, and taste the funnel cakes and frozen bananas.”
Speaking of food, Tom Sacco, president, CEO, and chief happiness officer for Happy Joe’s Pizza, notes pizza and ice cream are designed to be handheld, which creates a focus on the product and the dining experience, instead of on technology and smartphones.
Happy Joe’s Pizza also offers family fun centers where children can earn tickets to cash in for toys and prizes to continue their imaginative experience at home, he says.
“We are glad to play a small role in unplugging to enjoy life’s happiest moments,” Sacco says.
Making Memories Without Phones
To record an experience, Cavallo hopes individuals will bring point-and-shoot cameras instead of using their phone cameras and posting on social media immediately.
Or take a tip from Levin who says, “I would take a lot of mental pictures and make memories the way we humans have done for millions of years—without worrying about posting or posing.”
Jonah Sandler, founder and chief entertainment officer at Scene75 Entertainment Centers in Illinois and Ohio, enjoys witnessing his guests bonding without phones.
“It looks like how life is supposed to be lived—in person through real experiences that happen without the need for social approval,” Sandler says. “Often that comes with a newfound sense of understanding, a sense of wonder, a sense of fulfillment, and a sense of connectedness.”
Aliza Bran, media relations manager at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., says it’s easy to forget about phones at the museum, especially when in the Cyber Infinity Room, learning about spy skills or when crawling through the museum’s air duct, trying to catch others in a lie at one of the interactive stations.
Although the attractions mentioned above don’t have scheduled plans for National Day of Unplugging, they certainly have the resources for it. Notice the URL nationaldayofunplugging.com contains “fun." ” That’s what attractions can supply on this day. Let the community know about National Day of Unplugging by posting support on social media in advance of the day and sending them to take the 2022 pledge to unplug.