This past weekend marked the second annual National Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour respite from technology of all sorts.  I participated last year and this year, although I only partially unplugged; I steered clear of the Internet but watched college basketball on television with my son. I like to think I abided by the spirit of the project, if not the letter.

National Day of UnpluggingThe National Day of Unplugging is sponsored by Sabbath Manifesto, which describes itself as “a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.” Based loosely on the tenets of the Jewish Sabbath, Sabbath Manifesto encourages weekly unpluggings, when participants give up their electronic devices and spend time with real people. Each Friday afternoon, as I am sitting in the carpool line at my sons’ school, I get a text message reminder from Sabbath Manifesto about unplugging at sundown, when the Jewish Sabbath begins. It’s a good way to go into the weekend.

I love the Internet; I love the way that it connects me to people who share my beliefs and ideas but do not live in my neighborhood. I love that I am able to make a living via my computer, without leaving my house or needing to make complicated arrangements for my children. I love that I can get news and reviews and information right now, quickly, with just a simple Google search.

At the same time, though, I am often overwhelmed by the Internet, by the immediacy of information and the 24/7 pace. It is difficult for me to take a day off of work because my work is so deeply tied to the Internet, and to the technologies that connect me to the World Wide Web. Stepping away from work means, for me, stepping away from the gadgets that enable that work — which means shutting off my cell phone and unplugging — literally — the computer.

Every time I do this, I am nervous about it. Monday morning, when I got back online after my unplugged weekend, my email was out of control — it took most of the day to catch up. At the same time, though, having 24 hours away from the news cycle was refreshing. It was good to spend time only with my family and real-life friends, to talk only about what matters in my very small everyday world. It was good to focus on the tangible parts of my life.

Social media is a powerful tool for connecting — with people, with brands, with issues. But the real power of social media is in convincing people to disconnect and step away and live in the moment — without tweeting or Facebooking or blogging the experience.

Want to know more about the Sabbath Manifesto? Read the 10 Principles of Unplugging, and think about how you — and your brand — can engage with them.