Saturday, May 15, 2021

When Is International “Shut Up Day”?

Saturday is International Shutdown Day, a worldwide event put together by a Canadian organization of the same name (Shutdown Day) to get as many people as possible to ignore their computers for 24 hours. According to the organizer’s Web site:

“The idea of Shutdown Day project is simple – just shutdown your computer for one whole day of the year and involve yourself in some other activities: outdoors, nature, sports, fun stuff with friends and family – whatever, just to remind yourself that there still exists a world outside your monitor screen.”

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we all make Saturday “International Shut Up Day” – a day where we all just leave each other alone and not try to get each other to do something.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for shutting down, unplugging and getting away from the computer once in a while. I just don’t need a non-profit organization telling me I ought to go outdoors and spend time with friends and family. I’ll tell you why.

As I write this, I am outdoors, spending time with friends and family. On a Greek island in the Mediterranean. In the middle of the week. And I’m not on vacation.

What makes it possible for me to “telecommute” from Crete is this computer-and-Internet thing the Shutdown Day people want me to avoid on Saturday.

You know what else would be impossible without computers and the Internet? International Shutdown Day! They could never organize such an event without their Web site, plus online publications and social networks to spread the word.

I don’t accept the conventional wisdom in some quarters that computers and other gadgets are some kind of addiction, a dark mental prison that keeps us from living our lives.

In fact, the opposite is true. Internet connected computers and mobile devices can free us from being chained to a desk or a factory floor. If people choose to spend all day, every day using computers, then that’s what they should do. If they want to unplug this Saturday, every Saturday or every day, well, technology gives us the choice.

My proposal is that we all celebrate something else this Saturday. How about “International Computer Appreciation Day”? Or “Ironic Non-Profit Organization Day”? Or – best of all – “International Shut Up Day” – a day where we all just leave each other alone to enjoy the technology we are so lucky to have access to — every day.

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