Campaign Promotes the National Day of Unplugging
What if, instead of answering every command, Siri and Alexa encouraged you to try and figure out a few things…yourself? That’s the premise of the humorous new parody which encourages us to rely less on our digital devices, and “Use It Or Lose It.” Award-winning filmmakers Michael Stusser and Marty Riemer (“Sleeping with Siri”) collaborated on the video to coincide with the National Day of Unplugging (March 1st).
“We wanted to do something fun to bring attention to the National Day of Unplugging,” notes Stusser. “I think the notion of having our “Smart Devices” push back a little bit – “Stop asking so many stupid questions!” is a crack-up. It’s the idea that, If you Google everything, you won’t remember anything.”
In the faux-commercial, a man (Stusser) is gently coaxed by his various Digital Assistants to try and use his own cognitive skills – so as to continue to sharpen his memory, math skills and sense of direction. The video pokes fun at how reliant we’ve all become on our newfangled smart “assistants” for even the most simple tasks, and warns of the potential for “digital dementia.”
“The main goal of these projects – tech timeouts and digital blackouts – is just to get people thinking about ways to find balance,” states journalist Stusser. “It’s fine to use Siri to call for reservations, or have Alexa order more toilet paper. But, every once in a while, calculate a tip on your own, or try and remember your Mom’s phone number. If you want to go really crazy – how about committing to a device-free dinner?!”
The filmmakers’ documentary “Sleeping with Siri” illustrated the importance of finding balance in an era of digital madness, and won a variety of film festival awards (including The American Documentary Film Festival, Big Easy, and Hollywood Film Fest). After the success of the doc, the team created The Tech Timeout Academic Challenge, a program which asks young people to set aside their digital devices for up to a week in order to understand and appreciate concepts like using the library, playing board games, and finding your own way home. The program has been conducted in over 1,000 schools across the country, and is the basis for an upcoming follow-up documentary.
Journalist Michael A. Stusser has written for mental_floss, the New York Times, Village Voice and Seattle Weekly. His “Digital Madness”column appears in the Good Men Project. He is also the author of The Dead Guy Interviews (Penguin USA). Marty Riemer, who did the post-production and direction for the video, runs Twisted Scholar, an educational production company. The cinematographer for the “Use It Or Lose It” video is Mark Goodnow, of The Production Foundry.
“Use It Or Lose It” drops in advance of The National Day of Unplugging – which is on Friday, March 1st and 2nd. Now in its 10th year, this tech-free holiday consists of a 24 hour period from sundown to sundown, to unplug, unwind, relax and do things other than using technology, electronics, and social media. The idea is to disconnect (for a while) from digital devices, and connect with ourselves and our loved ones in real time.
In the real world, of course, Siri and Alexa will not encourage you to unplug anything. Finding tech-free moments, digital blackouts and screen-free time will only come about by creating those moments for ourselves, one hour at a time, one day at a time. So, why not start now? Why not try the National Day of Unplugging? The mind is like a muscle: Use it… or lose it.