The Power of Unplugging
By most accounts, the average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phone, 64.5 minutes a day on Facebook, and 48 minutes on Instagram. 84% of cell phone users say they couldn’t go a single day without their device. Wow!
We believe that unplugging from devices can be a “superpower.” Eva Beresin, a rising freshman at Riverwood HS, told us one of the things she loves best about Camp Judaea is being without her phone. “I look forward to connecting with people without distractions. I can get to know them for who they really are.”
Jodi Mansbach, Federation’s Chief Impact Officer, just returned from a convening that explicitly required participants to leave their smartphones, laptops, tablets and smart watches behind. Read how Jodi connected with a new kind of “superpower” through conscious unplugging.
Jody’s Report on a Conference Without Phones:
How many conferences have you been at where the speakers are up in the front and the room is a sea of laptops and phones? No one is looking or listening. We are all multitasking — poorly, research tells us.
I recently attended a conference where The Jewish Agency for Israel brought 150 leaders together from around the world for three days of visioning the future. They set one ground rule. No phones. No phones in the work sessions. No phones at meals. No phones during session breaks.
This is what it takes to do deep work. For those who aren’t familiar, the Jewish Agency literally founded and built the State of Israel. Since 1929 it has rescued and resettled Jews from around the world, especially from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, to create the largest concentration of Jews in the world. As it looks ahead to the future, Jewish Agency was asking us a critical question: What are the most crucial challenges and possibilities facing the Jewish collective today?
From the outset our facilitator asked us to chart a brief history of social progress, conflict and change and innovation over the past 100 years. We couldn’t look at our phones. We couldn’t Google. So, we thought about what really mattered, and what mattered was thinking creatively and seeing connections between events. Not having our phones made us more curious not less. It made us talk to each other to work ideas out.
For me, the most salient example of social progress was the rapid expansion of Starbucks outside Seattle in the 1990’s. Starbucks brought a new kind of community and shared space back into our world —something we in the United States had lost as people moved farther apart into suburban houses with home movie theaters, and no reason to socialize outside of home. People in the group suggested other key political moments of profound change. This set the context for the next three days when we went deeper and deeper into our Jewish collective. We looked at climate change, refugees and migration, growing inequalities. The stories of our fragmentation. The need for a different kind of leadership.
Our facilitators intentionally created a space, with rules for engagement, that let us go deep. When I emerged three days later not only did I have fewer emails in my in–box, I also had a new skill. Unplugging.
We are blessed to have a concept of Shabbat, of rest and unplugging in our Jewish tradition. I highly recommend this practice. But I also am asking myself, how can we create Shabbat in our work space and with our colleagues? Even when we aren’t dealing with the existential questions that the group in Jersey City were called on to grapple with, we owe it to ourselves and to our community to slow things down. It’s only then that the collective wisdom within ourselves and our group can be heard.