Manifesto-a-No-Go? Or, a Manifest(ivus) for the Rest of Us

Cell phone sleeping bags

Take a digital detox as part of National Day of Unplugging—from sunset on Friday, March 23, to Saturday, March 24, 2012.

I live a very plugged-in life. Some moments are more wireless than others but generally my waking hours are structured around technology in various forms. For example, I keep track of the time for our evening dog walk using the alarm clock on my iPhone. I turn to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything iPad app before deciding what’s for dinner. When we have dinner guests, my husband and I open wine bottles using this rechargeable, motorized corkscrew. Then there’s my choice to drive an all-electric car, which is plugged in whenever it’s not in motion. [I do draw the line at those air-fresheners designed for use in a wall plug, but that could be because they take up precious outlet space! But I digress…]

Skirball friend/The Family Savvy/blog maven/entrepreneur Sarah Bowman puts it this way: “Being unplugged will become more and more of a luxury as our screen-addicted kids grow up.” She’s right. I can’t get through breakfast with my extended family without one of my nieces playing a game or taking a photo with one of the three or four adult phones on the table. For so many of us, smart phones are enmeshed in our daily family lives.

Despite this predisposition for being in the know and communicating on the go—or maybe because of it?—I was enthusiastic when the Skirball was approached in early 2011 to take part in an innovative nationwide initiative called the National Day of Unplugging, created by Reboot and described as “a respite from the relentless deluge of technology and information.” At the heart of the initiative is the Sabbath Manifesto, a list of ten principles to strive for one day a week, every week.

I’m not really drawn to manifestos as a rule, and certainly not those authored by Karl Marx, the Unabomber, or fictional character Jerry Maguire. Not one of those guys really motivated me to do much of anything, and certainly none of them inspired me to take on a voluntary writing task (which you are reading now). However, I thought the Sabbath Manifesto appealed strongly in its very clear call to action: hit the brakes, slow it down, unplug just a little. As described by Reboot, “The Sabbath Manifesto is a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.”

Sabbath Manifesto

Posted on the trusty white board in my kitchen, the Sabbath Manifesto keeps me mindful of the things that matter. (And yes, I like the parts about wine and bread and candles.)

It seemed right for the Skirball to get behind the project. We’re a high-energy place if high energy is what you’re looking for, but we’re also a place of calm. Looking out the window right now, I see people hanging in our main courtyard, having lunch in the sun. That’s at least four of the 10 Principles right there—avoid technology, connect with loved ones, get outside, and eat bread (or mixed greens—we don’t nitpick).

Aaah, a quiet spot on campus. No electrical outlets in sight. Photo by Alex Vertikoff.

Aaah, a quiet spot on campus. No electrical outlets in sight. Photo by Alex Vertikoff.

Reboot approached the Skirball to be part of this “slow down” initiative with clever incentive: to anyone who would agree to stash his or her cell phone in a “Cell Phone Sleeping Bag” for the day on a specific Saturday, Reboot would provide a cute little drawstring muslin sack, silkscreened with the Sabbath Manifesto logo, plus a teeny-tiny tip sheet tucked inside. With one’s phone “sleeping” inside the bag during a museum visit, it would effectively cut back one’s ability to tweet, check in, snap/tag/pin/post a picture, or (for some) take or place a phone call. As part of the promotion, the Skirball agreed to encourage visitors to unplug for the day, distribute the sleeping bags at the Admissions Desk, and provide discounted museum entry to all those who wanted to take part.

As someone who’s lived and breathed marketing for years, I really appreciated the attention to detail in all that was prepared and presented: the cheeky tagline “Slowing down lives since 2010,” the crisp look of the Sabbath Manifesto online page which carried through to the print collateral pieces, the spot of red color marking the sixth circle. All of that helped make the concept of the Sabbath a very accessible thing for me, as well as for my friends and family.

Flash back to last year: On Saturday, March 23, National Day of Unplugging 2011, I woke up, walked downstairs, and opened my laptop before starting breakfast. Sleepily I checked news headlines and the latest Facebook status updates. Suddenly I realized what day it was. I gave myself the digital equivalent of a heel-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead-coulda-had-a-V8 and quickly typed up a confession, outing myself as blowing my digital diet for the day, even before that first cup of coffee. I even had the Cell Phone Sleeping Bag with me, but somehow just spaced out. ARGH.

Though feeling a strange blend of anger and amusement, I decided it would not be a total loss if I could at least keep the message of Reboot’s Sabbath Manifesto going forward. So I posted the link on my Facebook wall and received quite a response. Friends and family from across the country immediately responded with “Likes” and comments like “I just love this.” Not even one of my dear ones had a snarky comeback or questioned the irony of that post. Everyone just kinda got it.

Despite a bumpy start to the day, that morning last March was a nice little reminder that a day of rest, even if just a digital break, is worth a shot. As designed by Reboot, the Sabbath Manifesto gives a nice, neat accessible pathway to the Sabbath for those who are new to the concept.

Before I headed out to take a yoga class (Principle 03: Nurture your health), I took the opportunity to tape the little handy-dandy “10 Principles to Strive for One Day a Week, Every Week” to the dry-erase board on my kitchen wall. That little business card–sized manifesto has remained there all year long, conveniently located across from the fridge, reminding me to ease up and take time for myself and my peeps… and my dog—at least once a week, if not more.

My dog, Willie, has a plugged-in life of his own: vet appointments and dog-walking dates on my iPhone calendar, plus a Pinterest board dedicated to “the cutest little rescue poodle” (click on the pic above to see what’s been pinned to date). But in the end, all he wants is to take a walk. We should follow his example.

My dog, Willie, has a plugged-in life of his own: vet appointments and dog-walking dates on my iPhone calendar, plus a Pinterest board dedicated to “the cutest little rescue poodle” (click on the pic above to see what’s been pinned to date). But in the end, all he wants is to take a walk. We should follow his example.

Flash forward to this weekend: It’s your turn! National Day of Unplugging 2012 is here. Join us at the Skirball this Saturday, March 24, when once again the Cell Phone Sleeping Bags will be given out at the Admissions Desk starting at 10:00 a.m. and will continue throughout the day, while supplies last.

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About Jennifer Caballero

Jennifer Caballero joined the Skirball in 2007 as Marketing Director. The array of program and exhibition content at the Skirball serves as the perfect antidote to her seriously low tolerance for boredom. During your next visit, she might innocently strike up a conversation with you in line at Zeidler’s lunch cart… and then not-so-innocently ask about what specifically motivated your family to visit Noah’s Ark that day. When not at the Skirball she’s often in the carpool lane making the most of a 23-mile commute, or spending time outdoors biking, hiking, and walking with her husband and their poodle mix rescue pup.

2 thoughts on “Manifesto-a-No-Go? Or, a Manifest(ivus) for the Rest of Us

  1. If I were to do #1 on the list (avoid technology), it would make it much harder for me to do the rest of the items on the list (other than eating bread!). Rather than unplugging, I’m hoping to meaningfully plug in this Shabbat.

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