Tiffany Shlain on How Unplugging One Day a Week Can Save Society
The Author of 24/6
Talks to Andrew on Keen On
In this episode of Keen On, Andrew talks to Tiffany Shlain, author of 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, about how unplugging one day a week can save yourself and democracy, the digital divide between the rich and poor, and the reform she’d like to see in Silicon Valley.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: Tiffany, what is that power of unplugging, or what exactly is unplugging? Are we supposed to trash our smartphones?
Tiffany Shlain: No, no, no. I love technology, but just not 24/7. So for the last 10 years, my family and I turn off all screens from Friday night to Saturday night. I should say I’m Jewish, but I’m not religious. I do it really as a practice with my family, and it’s literally the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I think the powerful part is we’re losing perspective. We’re so plugged in and on the network 24/7 that to have a day away, you get perspective. You get reflection. You have some insight on your own thoughts instead of being influenced by every thought of anyone coming at you all the time. I think we’re losing that sense of just being okay to be with ourselves and the people right in front of us. Our humanity is always important, and, also, you don’t get to see the bigger picture when you’re just so in it. You’re sucked into this addiction impulse network every second. I think these are issues with our democracy and your life. There are issues about how do you want to be in the world.
Andrew: So what do you do on this one day a week that you unplug? Why is that different from the other days?
Tiffany: I mean, it’s an over 3,000-year-old concept. The Sabbath or Shabbat, which is a day different from all other days, and it’s a true day of rest. I think in the 21st century that means being off the screens because the screen is such a combination of so many things coming at you.
So Friday night, we have people over for dinner. … We have friends, family, neighbors, and we make a big meal. There are no phones inside because people know we don’t have them on Friday night. The conversations flow in such a different way without phones. We laugh more. We’re more present. You know, we’re just having a great meal. People listen better when they put their phones away because there’s no chance, you know, when you have that thing buzzing, even if it’s on silent, you’re just constantly on alert for something else to take you out of where you are. So the dinner is very fun and very social, and we ask big questions around the table. We don’t have a kids table, and we’ll have one conversation that lasts for several hours.
Then the next day is much more quiet. We hang out. We read, we journal. We nap. We go bike riding. We do nothing. Sometimes I do art. You know, it’s just all the things we don’t do anymore, and there are lots of things that I put aside to read on Saturday, because I know I’ll read in a more focused way. I think we’re reading more than ever, but we’re skim reading. I don’t think we’re reading deeply. So it’s a day of not being taken away.
You get back all that you forgot that you don’t do anymore, because every second you’re being pulled to the phone and you’re being pulled out of what you’re doing. It’s a day to just be and not work and not be productive and just be present and be with the people right in front of you or yourself. We don’t make a lot of plans on Saturday. It’s literally our favorite day of the week. We have a 16-year-old and a 10-year-old.
The thing I would usually say if people are interested in trying this is, what do you wish you had more time to do and just fill the day with that.
Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany Shlain is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and founder of The Webby Awards. Tiffany’s films and work have received over eighty awards and distinctions including being selected for the Albert Einstein Foundation’s Genius: 100 Visions of the Future. NPR named her UC Berkeley address as one of its best commencement speeches and her films have premiered at top festivals including Sundance. She lectures worldwide on the relationship between technology and humanity.