Commfree day

Update – July 11

I created a page dedicated to CommFree discussion, so it would always stay at the front page of the blog. You can find the link in the right upper corner, under the link to “about” page.

Feel free to engage in conversation over there.


OK, this is an idea I’ve been playing with for a while…

But first a confession… I am a communication junkie. I love technology, i love media, I love gadgets and everything associated with this world. I find it hard to imagine what i would do without all these technological wonders. What would i do without internet? How would i communicate with all my friends spread all over the globe? How is it living without some TV here and there? Or more so without music… online radio silence day was a killer! One of the first things i do in the morning is turning on the computer on my way to the bathroom. I think i am addicted.

Having said that, i admit that many times i feel overwhelmed…. for example by the amounts of email, social networking sites’ updates, phone calls, etc. or in general by the amount of time i spend online. I get frustrated from the quality of news or entertainment i see on TV or read in the newspapers (see a very nice article by Oz Almog on the subject, sorry, but it’s in Hebrew). And then i am angry at myself for spending time on getting frustrated instead of doing something useful. And so on and so forth.

Bearing in mind this conflict, it seems to me that with all the good things extensive communication and information accessibility give us, many times, also thanks to them, we find ourselves drawn into infinite chase, forgetting to enjoy the life. On the one hand we forget enjoying the simple things like reading a book just because, going for a hike or simply doing nothing for a while. On the other hand, in the technological context, we forget enjoying all the benefits that media and information technologies (MITs) are bringing in our lives such as instant communication with others, access to information, ease of getting things done, and more. I personally find myself many times chasing something without an option to stop, think things over, and reflect on what is that i am chasing, or how i do that.

So, in order to restore the balance and maintain a perspective on both the non-technical aspects of our lives and the role of MITs in our lives, i suggest a Commfree Day. The idea is having one day a month free of communication technologies. One day a month when you turn off your TV, your computer, your mobile, and other gadgets, and do all the other things you usually don’t have the time for. It can be going for a walk, finishing that book that lays for months by your bed, meet up with friends whom you haven’t seen for ages, etc. The options are practically unlimited. The basic drive is making the commfree day a comfy day – something that you would enjoy.

I believe that having this practice once a month will help maintain a perspective on both our non-mediated lives and the role of MITs in them. I am not suggesting doing that out of hatred towards technology (or just because as the shutdown day people seem to be doing). Quite the opposite. I suggest that because I think we need this break to reflect on where we are heading and reflect on the role media and information technologies play in our lives. I think it is a healthy practice, and the key for it success is it becoming a practice – once a year is just not enough.

On a more practical level, i think this day should be the first Saturday of each month. Why? Well, it has to be a non-working day for you can’t force people not to work and Saturday seems to be the most universal holiday globally. Also, first Saturday of the month is easy to remember. So the next Commfree Day is August 4, 2007. I plan on following it and would be glad to hear if anybody else joins me.

Of course, i do not suggest it being too rigid. Although i do believe for doing the complete thing, but I undersatnd that there are cases where you can’t give up the MITs completely or it is just too much to ask at once. To start with, i think the idea is to minimize the use of MITs as much as possible aiming towards eventually freeing that one day a month.

And one last thing, i would really like to hear what you think about this idea, about how it could be better formulated (and probably named) and spread around. Needless to say that you should feel free passing it on. Thanks!


What: Commfree Day

Why: Because you love your life and you love the technology

When: Saturday, August 4, 2007


29 Responses to “Commfree day”

  1. Veronica Says:

    2008? Did you mean 2007?

  2. Dima Says:

    You are right! Thanks! (I live in the future :) Fixed it.
    And what about the idea itself? Are you with me?

  3. Carole Cohen Says:

    Hi, this is not a bad idea; and I don’t see it as hatred of technology so no worries (besides you love technology lol).

    I see it as a good idea because to me, no matter what we are doing we need to have days when we are not doing that task, whatever that task involves. For me, that means no real estate one day every two weeks. It’s hard to do that though.

    As for your specific day, to help you get this off the ground I can do it. Saturdays are hard to ‘x’ out of technology since it is a prime work day for agents in real estate. But count me in for August 4 th. I will also throw a link to this idea up on my outside (outside of AR) blog.


  4. Dima Says:

    Thank you Carole!

    I am really glad to see the interest and support. Thanks for linking!

    I agree, It is hard to find a day that will suit everybody equally. I thought that Saturdays would be the best, but as i wrote i am open for suggestions.

  5. Heidi Cool Says:

    Great idea! While I read and hiked today, I still eventually found myself online, where I saw your comment. A day with just books and nature would be a good change of pace.

  6. Rick Cockrum Says:

    The issue, as you suggest, is one of balance. I have never heard of Shutdown Day, and was surprised at the vitriol some people poured on it. We have reached a point where our society, and our daily lives, do depend on computers in one form or another. The point seemed to be to avoid the use of personal computers for a day, and some people seemed to equate that with going back to caves. I saw one suggestion that carpenters put down their hammers for a day, as if that was silly. They do. PCs are no more, and no less, a tool than a hammer. The suggestion seemed to point up people’s over reliance on pcs more than anything.

    I’m not really into official days for anything. Most Saturdays I already don’t use mass media, except as far as my business requires it. My wife and I run a movie theatre – no computers, no answering the phone, no radio, just film and antique equipment. Then again, I spend part of each day meditating, outside, and reading already. Most tv is a waste of time. Most news is about something we can’t or won’t do anything about or doesn’t affect us.

  7. delawarecows Says:

    This is a really neat idea. I’m with Carole, but I’m going to give it a shot!

  8. Dima Says:

    Thank you Heidi, Rick and delawarecows for support. I would really appreciate if you’d spread the word and then also share your impressions after the day. It is usually not simple to start things :)

    I did follow the Shutdown Day initiative because it clearly resonated with my idea. And as you wrote Rick, i was also surprised to see the reactions. This is why I think it is important (1) to explain why doing this makes sense and (2) that it is a positive thing to do and not another anti-x action.

  9. April Groves Says:

    I think this is a fabulous idea…but like a few of the other readers, I don’t think Saturday would be it for me. But I do plan on participating. A scheduled day seems to be a good way to do it. Typically I just wait until I can’t stand it anymore and then “Shutdown.” Seems healthier to be proactive than reactive.

  10. Leonid Says:

    You all seem to agree, which is getting rather annoying. Count me out, I don’t see any reason doing it. <bad rhetorics>It doesn’t make any more sense then walking around with your eyes closed in order to appreciate a vision better</bad rhetorics>
    I would like to may another point about a role of technology in real life, a reverse one, in a way. It’s not very connected to your post, but I’m too lazy to write a serious blog entry.
    Consider two things: cash money and everything paper (i.e. books/newspapers/bank statements/whatever). They are so obsolete (dozens of years obsolete!) that it’s simply maddening. It’s 21st century, and I still have to ask a waitress to change a banknote. Why can’t I tip a waitress with a credit card?
    A couple of months ago I called my bank and asked them to stop sending me monthly statements, since I can see them online. They told me that I can’t, or rather I can, but I will have to pay monthly payment for postbox rental at the branch. Here goes another square mile of selva in Brazil.
    The amazing thing is that I can’t think of any inherently unsolvable problem with electronic means of communication and payment, and I tried. On the other hand, classical approach suffers from so many problems everybody takes for granted. How come I can’t revoke money and ID in a stolen wallet?

  11. Sarah Says:

    Nice idea, I tend to do something like that every other weekend or so. I just don’t turn on the puter, go climbing or do some of the other sports that I enjoy. It gives me time away from the constant chatter of the laptop, phone etc. It’s great to just get away and have time for yourself.

    I think people forget that to have a healthy balance they really can’t be at the beckon call of everyone 24/7. You need time to rest, relax and enjoy life. After all there is life beyond the computer ;)

    My holiday to Slovenia was a classic, no tech 2 weeks… just me, my friends, white water, rocks and travelling across Europe. It came as a bit of a shock though coming back to over 500 e-mails. That is one problem with turning off completely… you have to catch up afterwards.

  12. Dima Says:

    Leonichka, first you have to work on your examples. What’s next? Cutting off hands to appreciate motor abilities? I find comparing technology to body functions a bit annoying and actually this is why i think this abstention day is so important.

    As to cash/paper issue, i guess people outside Israel (at least in some places) will find it difficult to relate. I forgot when was the last time in the US that i tipped with cash, and one of the first offers i got from the bank was to go paperless (they even give you something if you do so, don’t remember what exactly). So be patient, it is already here :)

    April, thanks for the support!

  13. Leonid Says:

    >find comparing technology to body functions a bit annoying
    That’s why I invented the “bad rhetorics” tag while composing the previous comment.
    You are no better though — you pick at a little detail of tipping, while I’m talking about a much broader issue. No, it isn’t already here. It will be here when I will be able to buy a newspaper reader device and it will always show an up-to-date newspaper from a selection of major newspapers. It will be here when money will stop being printed. It will be here when email address will appear on your driving license and at the government databases (“Sir, you have been speeding. The ticket has been sent to your address”). It will be here when you’ll be able to apply for an IRS refund online without attaching a single physical receipt. (Frankly, I have no idea how it’s done now).

  14. Lloyd England Says:

    It’s a good idea, there’s often been many days I’ve been sitting at my laptop, looking out at a nice day, and in the back of my head wishing I was out there!

    I agree with the idea of how we would have to ‘phase’ ourselves in though, from everything to nothing even for just one day would probably be difficult for many – including me – but having said that I’m not entirely sure I would ever be able to have a 100% free Commfee day… just because at the start / and or end of the day I would probably still check emails / look at the news and such, and if I decided to go somewhere, for a walk or something, I would probably always take my camera – just in case!

    I think to an extent MIT has woven itself deep into my life, and it would be hard for me to entirely give up for a day. Even though I do think alot of it comes down to bordem, not having nothing to do, or can’t think of where to go, and so I just go on my laptop, talk to some people and browse the internet, and maybe watch the odd TV show. And I can justify that, because on several occasions when I’ve had to work and run around all day, or just got something to do, I don’t tend to think too much about what’s going on, or what I could be missing, I’m just concentrating on something else what I’m doing at the time.

    I suppose that’s what I should try and do on the Saturday, get something big planned which I have to do, which will keep me away from everything all day!

    I’ll try… but I’m not so sure on the success rate from me personally! ;)

  15. g3o Says:

    Left a reply on my blog, have no idea how you found it … but was a welcome surprise.

    I like this idea, I’ll pass it on and make sure I have a good book lined up for when I go fishing ;D

  16. Michelle Says:

    er… I think I just did a comfy day, and I am sure you need one, I dun wanna make you jealous about how I spent yesterday with my friends, but there was definitely no computer nor TV, neither at the beginning (I was rushing out) or the end of the day (I was too tired, nearly striaght to bed).

    But, I used my mobile, without that, I won’t be able to locate where were my frineds on the beach, nor other friends couldn’t invite me out for an “ad hoc after dinner drink”. The day might not happen if it was really communication technology free as you defined. (Sorry, I spilled how I spent the day, trust me, that was just part of it =)

    Then… did you miss out the part of “technology” in the name “commfree”? I yet have suggestion on the name but commtechfree day is rather easy, go hiking and camping without phones (I once did that for a week and that was perfect), but I imagine I can only “commfree” if I spent a night solo on a desert island.

    As for the e-bills, e-money, e-bla bla, yes, we are encouraged to do that here too, no doubt on the convenience, I am not sure about rest of the world, but I hate those disclaimer come with at the end of most of my statements. Just copy and paste one here “E-mail communications cannot be guaranteed to be timely, secure, error or virus-free. The sender does not accept liability for any errors or omissions which arise as a result.” It’s annoying and can’t stop thinking, that’s one of the reasons why you bank want me to make it electronic, gonna type them a letter.

  17. Heather Says:

    This is a great idea. At our house, we are are internet free on Sundays, but we still use other technology–phone, tv. I’ll have to do Commfree day just to get the feel of a different kind of freedom. On the days we forego the internet, it changes the energy in our home. I like it. I’ll pass the word about commfree day.

  18. Dima Says:

    Thank you everyone for all the comments! I am excited that the idea is getting response.

    Lloyd – i can see your point. This is why i think it is important to start with something and then see if you can make it freer :) I do think that everybody’s success rate is personal at the end of the day. I would be curious to hear how it went for you.

    g3o – there are not so many people blogging about “technology free day” or “internet free day” :) Thanks for passing it on!

    Michelle – you know that always love you having so many days off (whether it is off the work or off the internet :). And thanks for the comments on name! I like “commfree” because it sounds like “comfy”, but I think i will add a page to the blog dedicated to this idea so we could discuss there names and more.

    Heather – thank you for the great comment and for passing on the word!

  19. Tarleton Says:

    I like the motivation behind your CommFree Day. It makes my head spin a bit when we talk about a day without media+information technologies and then plan to read a good book — but I guess we’re always drawing lines between what technologies we forground as the intrusion and what we’ve embraced. (Likewise, I enjoyed the commenter who wants to participate and just run their family movie theater all day.)

    I’m a believer in exercises that give us perspective — I think going without our vision all day, if we could do it, *would* be instructive. The one glitch I have with this plan, though, is the question of what we’re really giving up. Especially if the focus here is communication technology, i.e. communication with others, then we’re not just giving up the Internet and the phone, we’re giving up (some of) our connections with friends, our engagement with the news and the public world, our experience with our culture’s storytelling. This may not be a bad thing to do once a month either, but we should be cognizant that that’s what we’re doing here as well.

    Here’s a proposal: maybe, if you’ve got CommFree Day on Saturday, then Sunday should be a “Day of Attunement” — what I want is for people to spend a day using their communication technologies all they want, but doing so in a way that is attuned to the role they’re playing, how they mediate their friendships, their citizenship, their social identity.

  20. Scrutiny » CommFree Day Says:

    […] “communication junkie” Dima Epstein is proposing a CommFree Day on the first Saturday of every month, beginning August 4. The idea is that, for those of us who […]

  21. Diogenes Says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. Count me in.

  22. Dima Says:

    Thank you Diogenes!

    Thank you Tarleton and also thanks for linking! And I think the idea of “attunement” is rather natural. For some reason, i keep on thinking about a food analogy. If i understand it correctly, it is similar to a situation where, you haven’t had some food that you like for a while, and then when you finally have it, you eat and you analyze every flavor constituting it. Does it make sense? Or i am missing your point?

  23. lisa Says:

    Definitely can vouch for how good it feels to spend a week or more without computer or Internet…

    I think everybody needs to find balance their own way though. That means switch things up somehow on a regular basis, even if it does upset routine. An x-free day won’t work for everyone, and there’s probably no reason why people shouldn’t pick their own day or week to break routine by switching off — or simply by leaving it switched on but cutting the Internet access so it’s function changes to something simpler and less addictive — or even just by switching off the mobile.

    What amused me about the Shutdown day that you previously publicised on your blog is that I only logged in to read about it on the Shutdown day :) Imagine trying to create a Shutdown day while you and everyone else is shut down? And that includes your mobile phones, cameras and MP3 players — they are just little computers with bad interfaces!

  24. Dima Says:

    I agree that everyone should find their own way. This is why i am not proposing a shutdown day :) I know what i want to make it for myself, but i agree that it is important for everyone to find their own balance. And this is actually why i think it would be beneficial sharing our “freedom” experiences.

  25. Nadya Says:

    Great idea, I am completely for it! I am as bad as you are in terms of turning on the computer in the morning (I actually stopped turning it off :)). But this makes me feel dependend, which I hate.

    Even though it was not intenended so, my own posting today is in a way a response to all this… Sometimes you do have to shut evertything down (and everybody up) to return the taste for life.

    Anyways, I won’t use any communication media August 4th becasue (hopefully!) I’ll be travelling.

    Just one question: does commfree day activities include drinking tea with friends? ;-)

  26. Dima Says:

    Of course! Tea is the basics! :)

  27. Sandy Piderit Says:

    Hi Dima,

    I really like this idea — it brings back some of the positive aspects of a Jewish shabbat or a Catholic Sunday, without the strict conservative dogmatic elements. And one Saturday a month seems much more feasible for me (at least to start with) than once a week.

    I will be at a professional conference on Saturday, August 4, so it will be easier than usual to turn off the cellphone, not check email, and not watch tv. I’m in!

    I’ll also be posting about the idea on my blog, with a trackback to this entry. I hope I can send some of my blog readers your way and encourage them to join the CommFree movement as well. Thanks for reaching out to me after noting my participation in the media consumption diet meme.


  28. Dima Says:

    Thank you Sandy!

  29. Comfree update « ::: Think Macro ::: Says:

    […] It’s been a few month since i first wrote about the comfree idea, but since then i haven’t heard much from of the people who commented […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: