Future Tense

The Problem With Taking a “Digital Sabbath”

Press photographer Mohamed Hammi sends pictures for his agency on May 25, 2010 in Tunis. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

Long ago, in 2008, the New York Times’ Mark Bittman explained why he takes a “Digital Sabbath” on the weekends: 24 hours free from email, computers, and other technologies. The idea was not new, but Bittman helped popularize it, and in the last four years, many people have at least attempted to make a digital Sabbath part of their routine. Part of the logic is that the constant intrusion of emails, tweets, Gchat messages, and other digital communications keep us from connecting to those sitting near us.


On the Atlantic today, Rebecca Rosen discusses the popularity of “digital Sabbaths” and examines how technology affects the way we perceive time. Technology, she concludes, is not to blame for a lack of human connection:

[I]f we allow ourselves to blame the technology for distracting us from our children or connecting with our communities, then the solution is     simply to put away the technology. We absolve ourselves of the need to create social, political, and, sure, technological structures that allow us to have the kinds of relationships we want with the people around us. We need to realize that at the core of our desire for a Sabbath isn’t a need to escape the blinking screens of our electronic world, but the ways that work and other obligations have intruded upon our lives and our relationships.

More literally, in 2010, the Atlantic also tackled the question of the Jewish Sabbath and the conundrum presented by e-readers.

Read more on the Atlantic.