Character Day, the global phenomenon that brings together millions of individuals and groups in schools, congregations, homes, and companies to engage in character development, this year tackles one of the most universal, urgent questions: how do we create a healthier relationship between humanity and technology? One of the answers, as Character Day 2019 will show, is found through the framework of the tradition and teachings of Shabbat and is also explored in Character Day co-creator Tiffany Shlain’s new book, 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, to be released by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books this fall. In the book, she explores her family’s decade-long practice of turning off all screens for Shabbat for what they call their Technology Shabbats. Shlain examines the science of rest, gratitude, creativity, curiosity, and empathy, and explains how adopting the ancient practice of Shabbat in a way that works for her hyper-connected family in today’s world has been life-changing. For Character Day, Shlain and her nonprofit will take these ideas to a global stage, encouraging millions to spend the day thinking deeply about the relationship between character development, screen use, and the wisdom of Shabbat and to take steps to integrate a Tech Shabbat into their lives, along with more intentional use of screen time the other six days. Character Day, Friday, September 27, will end with a global invitation to unplug on a weekly basis, officially launching a Global Technology Shabbat Movement.
Over the past five years, Character Day has grown to include more than 200,000 groups in schools, companies, congregations, and homes across all 50 states and 125 countries. This year includes five all-new two-minute films; a global live stream featuring interviews with rabbis, scientists, authors, artists, and other experts; live Character Day events around the globe; and hands-on discussion kits and materials to encourage exploration and application.
In this spirit of habitually turning off screens regularly to “turn on the best parts of you,” Character Day 2019 will be a catalyst for people to introduce their own Technology Shabbats into their lives. Leading up to Character Day, Shlain and her Let it Ripple team will introduce a series of weekly #TechShabbatChallenge(s) with films focusing on different challenges and themes: Take Back Your Time; Nature + Joy; Healthy Tech; and Connection. Each week is designed to gradually develop both awareness and practices around the connection between screen use and character development. Then, Character Day Friday September 27 will end in a global unplugging, with the challenge to practice a Tech Shabbat, to gather as families and friends, of all generations, to reconnect to each other, ourselves, and nature. The following weeks will continue the challenges, with resources and additional short films, each week landing on the continued #TechShabbatChallenge.
“The weekly challenges are about being more intentional about when to work, when to rest, when to be on our smartphones and when to turn them off to be present with those around us –all building off the wisdom of Shabbat,” says Shlain, the Emmy-nominated filmmaker of The Tribe and Making of a Mensch and Webby Awards founder. “I started doing this ten years ago, as a member of Reboot and part of the first National Day of Unplugging, and have done it almost every week since with my family. But I also know this practice doesn’t happen overnight. The challenges are designed for people to understand that the benefits to themselves of turning off screens every week are more valuable than what they give up. It is my family’s (daughters 16 & 10) favorite day of the week and our goal is to invite everyone to experience it — people who observe Shabbat in all different ways, as well as people who don’t. We want to share its ritual and teachings. Throughout the year, we will offer other weekly opportunities for people to put their screens away, and experience their own Technology Shabbats.”
Over 50 organizations are partnering to bring Character Day to more people than ever before, to grow the Global Technology Shabbat Movement.
“Our vision is to create a movement of people of different ages, races, religions, denominations, and levels of affiliation to experience the great practice of Shabbat by truly taking a day of rest without screens, every week,” adds Shlain. “Just as people do yoga and meditate with great respect for the cultures these practices come from, I hope people will learn from the ideas of Shabbat and bring this practice into their lives wherever they are coming from. For my fellow Jews, I also hope that those who don’t currently take a full day off for Shabbat can explore the power of this profound ritual of our people. We are at a critical inflection point in human history where we need to find ways to balance our 24/7 society in which we are expected to be available to everyone and everything all the time. The answer is right in front of us: Shabbat, a day of rest and renewal.”