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Posted on Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Could you unplug from electronics for a day? EMU group to participate in National Day of Unplugging

By Kellie Woodhouse

How long could you go without your cell phone?

An hour? A day? A week?

Stop hyperventilating and consider: what would 24 hours without any electronic devices, including the screen you're using to read this article, look like?


EMU Christine Tracy pledged to 'unplug' March 1.

Facebook photo by Allie Tomason

An estimated 75 Eastern Michigan University students and staff have pledged to find out. They've promised to partake in the National Day of Unplugging, during which thousands of people —from Chicago to New York to Poland— unplug from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

During that 24-hour period, participants will disconnect from phones, computers, radio and television. For a day, they'll give up emailing, Facebook and Twitter.

"The primary purpose is to take a step away," says EMU media professor Christine Tracy, who encouraged her media ecology class to unplug for a day.

Tracy recalled a scene she encountered in Ann Arbor on a recent morning: "The sun had come out in the winter and I was feeling great from having done yoga, and I noted three people walking down the street, and two out of the three of them were on their cell phones as they were walking."

She continued:

"We're unconsciously using technologies in ways that are keeping us from living our lives fully."

Tracy had hoped for upward of 100 pledgees, but found that gathering support was harder than she anticipated.

In a recent study, the University of Michigan found that cell phone use is contagious. When studying young adults in 10 second intervals, researchers found that individuals used their cellphones during 24 percent of the intervals. If one young adult pulled out a cellphone, other young adults nearby were 39.5 percent more likely to reach for their own devices soon afterward.

Individuals in their 30s and 40s also like to stay connected. U-M researchers found that members of Generation X report engaging in an equal number of in-person and electronic conversations each month. In the course of a typical month, study participants reported sending an average of 39 non-work emails, using Facebook nearly 23 times, using Twitter four times, Skyping once, and sending digital pictures seven times.


Cell phones can be hard to put down for some users.

"[The goal is for participants] to step away from their technology for a brief amount of time so they can see what it feels like, and then when they go back to their technology hopefully [they'll have] a more concise appreciation and use," Tracy said.

In preparation for Friday, Tracy and members of her class held an unplugged event on Feb. 26 where students played acoustic music and games.

"People were together in a different kind of way," she said. "I think when we have our devices with us we think we're connected, but we're really not."

So, could you unplug for a day? If you did, what would you do with all your extra time?

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 3:52 a.m.

Why, sure I could live without this and that but why ?


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

Couldn't make it.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

With the power outage on Wednesday? We ended up at the library behind a computer at 7pm. There are only so many games you can play before everyone goes, is the power up yet? Especially during the winter.


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

Great idea at EMU. Would love to see this at the Big U in Ann Arbor. Although it would seem the 30 and 20 something crowd would have a tougher time abstaining for 24 hrs w/o electronic devices, I have seen the 40 and 50 something crowd use these devices as much as the younger folks. I would be considered a light to very light daily user with mine.


Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 3:55 a.m.

Heck yeah. Beats sitting around watching the dumb TV shows. Wait, the TV is an electronic device. Go to jail for a day if you just wanna bum around and do nothing, lol

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.



Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 3:56 a.m.

Maybe cause you are to feel guilty about things you enjoy ?


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

The communication companies have got people hooked. Those of us who barely use the stuff have to pay nearly the same outrageous rates as those who are glued to their phones. And it is not just the younger generation. I have been to adult events where 10 people take a picture of something, then break up into little groups to look at the pictures they just took. Is it narcissism that makes people act this way? Try going to a concert and see how many people hold up their stupid camera phones and watch the performance on the little screen. Who are they recording it for? They are ruining the view for everyone else. I refute the current advertisement insisting that everything you see around you and every moment of your life is there to be captured and shared. Simple propaganda to get your $3 a day for "smart phone" service. No one cares about what you saw. Unless you are an artist or poet your perspective on a typical situation is no more unique than anyone else's. Accept that. Instead of capturing and sharing everything, how about keeping things to yourself, seeing with your eyes, and enjoying life as it happens. Ryan, your lighthearted concern that someone might miss a fun event gets to the heart of the matter. You won't miss anything. If it is important, your friends will let you know. Step away from the grid for one day and see if it gives you some perspective. Put the phones down and back away slowly, junkies. Of course I could never type a rant like this on a phone. My thumbs have not devolved yet.

Chester Drawers

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

The thing that I've noticed about people your age Ryan, is that even when in groups, together supposedly to socialize, most of you still have your noses plastered to those smart phones. It's almost as if you're desperate to see if there's something better out there!


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Agreed, somehow we managed very well before the first cell phones came into being in the 1980s. Many events before then were recorded on film, now live on You Tube, etc. I guess the pre cell era is now considered the Stone Age.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

In the world in which I live, most birthday parties, larger social outings/events and invites to unique/interesting things happening around town happen via Facebook now because it's so much easier and more efficient. You can give everyone the who, what, where, when and why in one quick punch without spending hours individually reaching out to a bunch of different people. You might still get a, "Hey, are you coming tonight?" text from a good friend on the day of the event, or a reminder if you happen to see the person who invited you before the event. But in most cases, a personal invite to anything social outside the digital realm is usually reserved now for, "Hey, wanna grab lunch?" or "Hey, wanna grab a beer?" My friends and I even use Facebook to arrange meetups at the dog park. Again, this is what I've observed in my own world. Most of my friends are in their late 20s and 30s.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

This paragraph made me chuckle a bit because this "typical month" probably more accurately describes my typical day: "In the course of a typical month, study participants reported sending an average of 39 non-work emails, using Facebook nearly 23 times, using Twitter four times, Skyping once, and sending digital pictures seven times." While it's maybe a fun experiment to see if they can unplug for a day, I'm not so sure staying plugged into the world and being involved in the lives of hundreds of your friends and your family in real-time is such a bad thing. I see it as efficient, as progress. I have no idea how I would line up meeting up with my friends tonight without the ability to use my phone or email. Bike several miles across town and knock on their doors and hope they're home? Anyway, good luck to those giving this a shot! Hopefully you don't miss a Facebook invite to a really fun event in the next 24 hours!


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Yes, my work has me on the internet all day, but I can definitely cut back after hours and on the weekends. You can carry the experiment to the extremes that you suggest (bike across town and knock on doors), but it's getting a bit silly I think. Even pre-internet days, people used the phone to arrange meetings. Seems to me that the purpose of the unplugged day is to encourage people to not bury their noses in their smartphones and computers all day long. How many of us compulsively check facebook, the news, the weather, our RSS feeds many many times a day, seekingout something new to mentally stimulate ourselves. How much does this constant checking wear at our attention spans, pull us out of the real world, and reduce the things we can accomplish in our lives? While constantly interacting in facebook is in one sense staying connected with those friends, in another sense it's disconnecting from the world around us and the real people around us and our own selves. (How many people stay buried in their texts and FB statuses while ata store and restaurant and never acknowledge the real human server by looking in their eyes and interacting with them directly? That's dehumanizing.)

Chip Reed

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his job depends on not understanding it". Just teasin', no offense meant...

Chip Reed

Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

Everything is a trade-off in life. You can't go back in a time machine to a pre-digital age, but it can be enlightening to get a glimpse of what has been given up in the name of "progress".


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Love the unplug challenge. Let's get outdoors, communicate with friends personally, etc.


Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 4:10 a.m.

Oh wow, U tube has it Beavis and Butthead Canoe


Sat, Mar 2, 2013 : 4 a.m.

Recall the old Beavis and Butt-Head show where they went camping and their teacher was signing a song about the great outdoors and was attack by a bear--too funny


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

Get outdoors? Only if it is summer and we can go north to commune with nature. Otherwise, freeze I don't.