"Since 2014, I have been observing a 'tech sabbath' — twenty-four hours of not using my laptop or phone from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. No email, no social media, no nothing. As darkness comes, I stand in front of my window and watch the sky for a few moments. Then I light a candle, and while holding it, I sing a song I learned in childhood to enter the magical and mysterious sabbath time. The moment I put the candle back on the table I can feel it: my shoulders relax, my breath comes easier, and usually, the tiredness that I've been able to hold off catches up with me, and I'm in bed by nine o'clock. If I'm really feeling it, I'll light incense. Without my tech, there's no music or podcasts to listen to, so I'm in silence, often for the first time in days. I am suddenly given the opportunity (or forced, depending on the day) to look inward.
"This practice of 'resting' from technology is quite different from everyday life, where the world is ours to consume — to be selected, filtered, tapped, and enjoyed. Tech indelibly shapes our reality. We work, shop, unwind, and find love on our pocket-sized screens. And as convenient as it is, we're undone by our compulsion to check the feeds, scrolling deep into the night. . . .
"Surprisingly, I've learned that I don't need to be responsive all the time. Since putting a small note in my email signature that reads, 'I am offline from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, when I observe a tech sabbath,' I'm often asked if I'm not worried about missing an urgent call. So far, no emergencies have struck and no once-in-a-lifetime opportunities have been lost. And even if I did miss an urgent call, that cumulative restful time might still be worth it.
"Taking time away from our technology gives us the space, time, and energy to reconnect to ourselves. We can slow down mentally and physically. I love to journal on my sabbath days, writing stream-of-consciousness thoughts and often finding new ideas or inspiration as my brain unwinds itself from the tight curl it's been wrapped up in. [Abraham Joshua] Heschel writes in The Sabbath, 'We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things.' But unless we take the time away from incessant interruptions, we cannot be present to that significance. With a tech sabbath, we can finally be present to ourselves and the significance of being alive."