Electricity thrums through everything – in the chargers or battery packs we connect to our phones and through wiring in the walls and ceilings of our campus buildings, powering blue back-lit screens, bright white overhead lights, computers and projectors. Electricity is almost always within reach, requiring only an easily available outlet for our numerous cables.
This power goes to our heads, making our brains sponges for instantaneous information and entertainment. It makes us feel in control and in the know about people and plans. But surely we don’t need this power all the time, do we?
Not according to the Wellness Center and the Project for Mindfulness and Contemplation, which are sponsoring an upcoming Technology Mindfulness Week Feb. 20-24. Their motto is, “when we unplug, we can truly connect” – interpersonally, not digitally.
Events will be held Feb. 21, 23 and 24, starting with a lecture by professor Carol Bruess on the impact electronics have on relationships and human connection, followed by yoga in the library that evening. The main attraction, Unplugged Thursday, is Feb. 24 and encourages students, faculty and staff to be tech free for an entire day. This means no intentional usage of technology – no cellphones, no music, no computers and no screens of any kind (though technology required in the classroom or workplace are exceptions).
Participants of Unplugged Thursday will sport temporary tattoos or stickers and, if presented at the Loft, will receive free coffee. To help fill in time otherwise spent on Netflix, board games will be offered in the library at 6 p.m. followed by Thursday Night Live Unplugged in Scooter’s at 9 p.m.
The final day of the Technology Mindfulness Week will include meditation, Friday Night Unwind Unplugged in Scooter’s and an open blog for students to reflect on their unplugged experiences.
Chris Hornung ’18, a member of the Student Health Promotion team at the Wellness Center, said they hope students will gain a better understanding of how they use technology. “We hope … giving up technology use for a day might spark ideas about how they might use technology differently in the future. We also hope it will be a fun experience to see how people interact with each other and their environment when they don’t have some of the ‘shortcuts’ that technology provides.”
Birdie Cunningham, associate director of health and wellness, said a large influence for Tommies Unplugged is the work of author Sherry Turkle, whose latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, has inspired faculty and staff around campus over the past year.
According to Hornung, a prominent negative impact of technology in recent years has been that students can find it difficult to enjoy the present. “The idea of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is definitely real in college students,” he said. “It is hard to relax and really get the most out of a given moment when you are always wondering if there is something better that you could be doing.”
Hornung hopes that without access to social media or texts (platforms that allow students to constantly check who is doing what, where) participants will be able to truly enjoy the present moment.
Technology Mindfulness Week organizers plan to make this an annual program and strive to teach students, faculty and staff “how to use technology more mindfully; increasing productivity, individuality, communication and other skills necessary for growth and creativity both during school and after graduation,” according to Cunningham.