Last Monday was the third Family Day Unplugged in Alberta, Canada, a chance to "unplug from technology & electronics for the day, and spend time connecting with yourself, friends, family and your community on Family Day."
While the event sounds like a mix between Arianna Huffington and Leslie Knope, I genuinely love it.
It's one thing when Silicon Valley CEOs and globetrotting spiritual figures talk from a stage at Davos about how great it is to eat a meal without checking their iPhones; but it's something else when unplugged events become something that counties can organize– or compete with one another over, as one local paper explained,
Twenty-two municipalities in the Capital Region are encouraging residents to unplug from technology and connect with family and friends on Family Day, February 17. Participating municipalities are competing to see which community accumulates the most time unplugged from technology.
It's also a measure of hust how pervasive the problems of– or at least the anxiety over– digital distraction have become. When you can hold a competition in towns that feature free "family puck 'n' stick shinny" events, an afternoon of "outdoor skating and fire pit" (sounds deadly), hay rides and kick sleds, or recommend that residents use their non-digital time to "See if the local hospital has a ‘read to the elderly’ program or similar" and "Shovel some sidewalks of people who need help," you know you've shot past the world of Google Bus protests and ironic videos about digital detoxes, and into the North American heartland.
This event– and other non-Valley digital Sabbath events, like the Foresters Tech Timeout— is another challenge to the idea that digital detoxes are the latest elite fad, or a way to redirect the blame for our digital woes back onto ourselves.
The results will be announced here. I don't want to play favorites, but it looks like Bellevue School will be hard to beat:
Way to go Bellevue families! We were unplugged for 7051 hours on Family Day. Thanks to all who took the time to log their unplugged hours.
— Bellevue School (@Bellevue_School) February 19, 2014