200245824-001The National Day of Unplugging starts Friday. Are you up to the challenge?

How the heck did we communicate before cellphones? Boomers and Gen Xers remember a time before mobile devices, emails, or even fax machines. Some still remember party lines and the exorbitant cost of long-distance calls. So how did we communicate? We wrote letters—by hand or using a typewriter. My mother typed a letter to the family every week. Her version of mass communication: She put carbon paper between three sheets of typing paper. She signed each final copy, addressed envelopes, and put stamps on them.

We could wax nostalgic and say those were simpler times, but I’m not sure that’s true. I know, however, that people took time to communicate with each other. They valued personal relationships. When they walked down the street, they made eye contact with those they passed and exchanged the occasional smile.

It’s a different world today. We’re so afraid of missing something online that we’re glued to our phones, even as we walk down the street. We only look up long enough to see where we’re going, so we end up missing out on the real world events happening all around us.

This Friday is the National Day of Unplugging—a day to remember that real life happens offline, that real relationships aren’t built in 140 characters or less, and that we miss the really important moments when we can’t take our eyes off our screens.

Technology Tunnel Vision

Not convinced you can unplug? Just consider what you might be missing if you’re so addicted to your devices that you can’t put them down for a single day.

I was amazed when I read the ABC News story, “Man glued to cellphone misses humpback whale 2 feet away,” about photographer Eric Smith, who captured this image:


According to Smith, the humpback whale and her calf surfaced two feet away from the man on the sailboat. It was a once-in-a-lifetime sight, but the sailor didn’t see it at all, because he never took his eyes off his smartphone.

Consider this: What beautiful sights aren’t you seeing? What once-in-a-lifetime moments are you missing out on while you’re staring at a device?

Behind the Curve

Technology tunnel vision doesn’t just make your life less interesting; it can also kill your sales career. If you’re bringing too much technology to client meetings, you may soon find yourself with a lot more time to check your friends’ status updates.

Here are the cold, hard facts: You might think you can listen and check email at the same time, but no one else is fooled. Your company, colleagues, and customers look to you for insights and opinions. They expect you to listen well and to craft thoughtful responses. To do that, you must be present—i.e., not multi-tasking. Otherwise, you’re likely to miss an important point that could either boost your sales or derail your career.

Ready to Unplug?

The National Day of Unplugging starts at sundown this Friday, March 6, and lasts 24 hours. I observed it last year and loved every minute.

So, will you unplug? Come on. I double dare you.

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