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A Glimpse into The National Day of Unplugging

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Saanvi Sundaram, a member of the LOG OFF Writers Group, interviews Claudia Erickson from The National Day of Unplugging to learn more about the upcoming campaign on March 5-6 2021.

National Day of Unplugging is a yearly event where people participating take a break from technology the first weekend in March (March 5- 6). As they gear up for the huge event— full of scavenger hunts and fort competitions, I took the opportunity to interview Claudia Erickson, the Director of Strategic Partnerships and creator of Little Free Libraries Scavenger Hunts of NDU. She talks about NDU, her thoughts on social media, and what she does to unplug.

What is National Day of Unplugging, and why do you think it’s such an important movement?

Claudia: National Day of Unplugging (otherwise known as NDU) is entering it’s 12th year this year. It began as a program of Reboot as a way of honoring the Jewish Sabbath from sundown on Friday to Sundown on Saturday unplugging from technology and connecting with your family and friends. NDU has grown so much over the years that Kim Cavallo (NDU Executive Director) and I decided to form the Unplug Collaborative, a non-profit organization, to give a new home to NDU where it can grow and go beyond the once yearly event. NDU is open to anyone and everyone who’s interested in unplugging in some way, whether for 2, 3 or 24 hours.

This movement is important because we focus on finding fun and meaningful things that people can do. We don’t focus as much on the educational piece although we think it’s important. There are groups already doing that so we wanted to create a space for connecting people to awesome unplugging resources and to help people find ways to gather and elevate their IRL relationships. It’s our hope that people will have a positive association with some of these unplugged activities and then want to do more of that. In addition, we focus on our awareness campaign— we like to highlight people that will be inspirational and encourage others to unplug… It’s why we like working with you guys, as you inspire young people to unplug.

You came up with the Little Free Libraries Scavenger Hunt. What were you thinking about when you came up with the idea?

Claudia: Well, it was a hybrid. I had done a scavenger hunt at the farmers markets here in San Diego, and people loved it. So I thought “Lets see if we can find another way to do this.” I love the Little Free Libraries (LFL) , they’re everywhere— 110,00 in 110 countries— and they’re just these little boxes, sometimes they look like mini homes in front of peoples homes, and there are books in there, and you just take a book and leave a book. So it’s the world’s largest book sharing program. It's wonderful that even in a big city, whenever you find one, you feel like you’re having a small town experience, being a part of a community which gives this nice fuzzy feeling.

I found a woman in Ontario had done a scavenger hunt with her LFL, so we built out of that idea. We’ve partnered with an author who created the Nocturnal Series, so all our clues are about nocturnal creatures this year. There will be a clue on each LFL, and when people go on the hunt they can unscramble the clue, collect some books and maybe some other items, get some exercise, and it’s fun and easy. They’ll be given a physical map -what we used to look at before we had phones to tell us where to go. There are almost forty Scavenger Hunts set up in the US and Canada, and I’m sure there’ll be more to come. Requests come in everyday, so we’re gonna have massive hunts on the 6th of March. Everyone can get involved.

What are some other activities you have for NDU?

Claudia: There’s a fort building contest. A lot of people like forts and you can use nature products or your couch or maybe even your dining table as a base and build out from there. We have a contest for the closest to nature, best upcycled, best kid fort, adult fort, and most creative-- we have a lot of adults and teens, so they could create a date night fort— with a Mandala and lights.

We also have Crochet for a Cause. London Kaye, (a yarn bomber) is an amazing young woman who makes what used to be an older person's hobby into a totally cool thing to do. She crochet’s these small squares to make welcome home signs which will go to youth who are coming out of homelessness and transitioning into permanent homes— to give them a sign to come home to. It’s a nice thing to do, it’s giving back, it’s keeping your hands busy— we actually just had a twelve year old named Jonah Larson, who is a crocheting wizard instruct Kristen Bell, an actress, how to make a sign. She did an Instagram live crocheting and it was so adorable. Jonah is so good at instructing her and Kristen had never done it before.

We’ve got somewhere between 50 to 100 ideas on our website of things that you can do for NDU. You can do adventurous things or simple things, you can paint or go ice skating. I know a lot of people are into roller skating these days. You can go ice-blocking— if you want to know what it is check out our website for a clip. If you don’t live in a place where it gets cold, this is one way to go “sledding” without snow. It’s really fun, I find a lot of teens and young adults love it.

What do you like to do on a day when you unplug?

Claudia: I like gardening— there’s something about having my hands in the dirt and growing things, especially something I can eat. I just love it. Even when I’m stressed out, gardening calms me down. It’s something you have to focus on, it’s mindful. And even if you’re not into the idea of mindfulness, it’s really just focusing on something. It clears your mind. I also take a candle light bath, most every night to unwind and relax. It’s become a lifeline for me during COVID. At the Unplug Collaborative, we try to promote having fun, to just go out and enjoy yourself for a while. Life has become very heavy this year and the news is sometimes just too much. We could all use a little more joy and fun in our lives. I recently got an E-bike, and I feel like a little kid, when I’m on that thing riding around town with my husband. It’s a blast!

LOGOFF wants to spread the message not that social media is a horrible thing, but that there are negative effects by using it. Do you agree with the same statement? Why/Why not?