Join Us for the Unplugged Challenge

July 2015

By Julia Colborn

One of the many great things about July is it’s National Cell Phone Courtesy Awareness Month.

O.M.G.! You can't be THAT rude, can you???Although portable telephones started surfacing in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that cell phones became commonplace, and now up to 64 percent of the population owns one, according to the Pew Research Center.

Jacqueline Whitmore established cell phone courtesy month in 2002, shortly after the dawn of the smartphone.

Having started a business etiquette school in 1997, Whitmore had already established herself as somewhat of an authority on all things socially graceful. What she noticed was growing complaints of inappropriate timing of phone use. Perhaps they are useful, but who among us hasn’t had at least one movie theater experience interrupted by a blaring ringtone a few seats over?

Whitmore penned 10 tips on how to be mindful of others when using a cell phone. The full list can be found on her website, but it can be condensed as:

1. Don’t be loud or rude in public.

2. Put it away when engaging with others.

From 1998 to 2005, cell phone ownership went from 36 to 71 percent of adults, according to the Census. With the decrease in landlines, cell phone use has increased further.

One tip Whitmore suggests is turning your cell phone to vibrate during films and other public performances. Many still don’t adhere to the request to turn off all cell phones before a show, but many more do switch their settings to silent or vibrate; everyone can ignore a little blue light for a second.

Social awareness is a great step in the right direction, but scientists decided to dig into how these hand-held, all-in-one devices affect us humans on psychological and biological levels. For example, cognitive researchers like Julia Frankenstein are finding that GPS dependence inhibits our natural sense of direction. “Psychology Today” has expressed concerns about the lack of imagination and retention in our children. Meanwhile, John Tesh has tried to make breaking up via email sound like a positive experience.

Given the relatively recent reliance on being “plugged in,” there are plenty more whys and hows yet to be researched, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Take Our Unplugged ChallengeWe at the Rolesville Buzz invite our readers to take the Unplugged Challenge. Go 24 hours – or at least from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep – without technology. No cell phones, no television, no landline (if you have one at all). Emergencies are an exception, of course.

Read a book, play a board game with the family, or make plans with your friends and trust everyone will show up without an “OMW” text.

On Saturday, July 25, do whatever it takes to participate in remembering what it was like to enjoy life without automation – and then tell us all about it on our Facebook page.

Before you scoff at the idea, this experiment has been conducted before, by organizations ranging from The New York Times to the University of Maryland. Although not everyone enjoyed the exercise, most reported an unusual amount of focus and productivity. Those who did enjoy their day found a peculiar liberation brought on by not having to check up on anything or anyone, but instead enjoy the moment.

The debate over whether technology keeps us together or tears us apart is ongoing, so give it a try. You might like it.