Unplugged: Seacoast Digital Fast Kicks Off This Weekend

April 25, 2019

by UNH IT Staff

Person reading a book on a dock












Do screens rule your life? Recent studies point to the links between excessive screen time and obesity, irregular sleep, behavioral problems, and impaired social skills (source: https://www.health.state.mn.us/people/tvviewing/index.html). We all romanticize for the days of holing up in a lakeside cabin to enjoy birdsongs, fresh air, and dense novels. But is pulling the plug on laptops, televisions, and mobile devices really the key to a happier, healthier life? 

The Seacoast Digital Fast challenges area residents to go dark May 3 (starting at 5:00 PM) through May 5 (ending at 5 PM). Initiated by Portsmouth resident Jeff Stern, the Digital Fast encourages exchanging any and all screen time in favor of nature walks, board games, and yes, actual human interactions.

How does it work? Stern explains. “On Friday, May 3 at 5:30 pm, we will gather at the Portsmouth Public Library. Councilor Nancy Pearson will read a proclamation officially declaring May 3-5, 2019 the Seacoast Digital Fast. We will take all of our devices, turn them off, put them in a drawer and walk away.” Stern envisions that people will spend a weekend free from the alerts and pings of the 24-hour news/entertainment/social media cycle. “Make people wonder what you’ve been up to. Enjoy quietly reflecting on something instead of instantly sharing your opinions with the world. Get your kids outside. Get yourself outside. Make eye contact with each other. Do one thing at a time. Give your eyes and thumbs a rest. Look up instead of down.”

This is a joint effort among members of the Portsmouth school system, the Portsmouth Public Library, the City of Portsmouth, business owners, and local artists and musicians. Even the Portsmouth Police Department is on board, ready to hand out “tickets” to individuals spotted on their devices during the 48 hours. These tickets are tongue in cheek, of course, but also a terrific conversation starter between officers and the public.

Stern explains, “We are planning a weekend chock full of fun events, games, challenges, and gatherings for both kids and adults. Full schedule coming soon, but here are some highlights:

Friday Kickoff at the Portsmouth Public Library with food trucks, lawn games, and mayoral proclamation! DJ Scooch spinning records Friday night at The Wilder, All-day activities at the PPL (Jedi mind training, meditation, SCDF book club), screen-free Brunch at Liar’s Bench on Sunday, drop-in games at Diversions & G.Willikers, postcard writing at Off Piste.

And much more! We hope this will be a unique opportunity for families to connect with one another, and for members of our community to experience our town and each other from a different perspective.”

Ready, set, unplug! 

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