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An Unexpected Day of Detox From WiFi Allowed Me to Reconnect With Myself

Thursday, December 02, 2021

By Cynthia C. Muchnick

It began like any ordinary weekday. Early alarm clock. Shower. Coffee. Cereal and smoothies for the kids. Shuffle the teens out the door to school.

My husband went downstairs to his home office, and I sat at my desk to write and pay bills. Much to my horror, I noticed that the WiFi was out. After repeated attempts at re-booting our router and modem, I gave up. When I tried calling my Internet provider, I realized that even our old-school landline was dead.

My husband briskly gave up on work and headed to the golf course. The social media posts I had scheduled were stuck in cyber limbo. I remained home, feeling a sense of disconnection and isolation that I had not experienced in a very long time.

Heavy rains and some flooding had come the day before; that must be the reason for the outage. I could only laugh at the bitter irony that I lived in the middle of Silicon Valley and still, I had no signal. Thank goodness the kids weren’t stuck at home doing virtual school or this would have been an even bigger inconvenience — a tech-free “snow day.”

I headed to the fridge out of boredom. I grazed through the pantry snack drawers; I noticed some dishes in the sink so I did them. Should I work out? Shoot, no internet for an exercise class. I lounged on the couch, ready to channel surf or catch up on a show only to discover that our TV, too, is solely accessible through Internet streaming.

No TV. A strange feeling of anxiety started to well up. I began to sweat, and my heart started to race. Were these the symptoms of tech withdrawal? I threw on my sneakers and sweats, put my hair in a ponytail, and whistled to the dog to join me for a walk. Leash in hand, I strolled with her around the block. Twice. I looked at the trees, talked out loud to her, and noticed the crunch of leaves and acorns under my feet.

When I returned to my empty house, I indulged. I took a shower, lit a candle, and then slipped into a long bath with a new book in hand. I read until my toes pruned up like raisins. The dog kept me company. And then, I took a nap! When I awoke, refreshed, I folded mountains of laundry, made some beds, and cleaned out a closet (which had been on my to-do list since before Covid). I even looked through some photo albums that I hadn’t checked out in years. I smiled and shed a tear as I felt gratitude for my group.

And then my quiet, private bubble burst. My younger teen needed to be picked up from school. Soon after, my other teen arrived home, unnerved by the lack of WiFi.

Still no word from the Internet provider.

In order for the kids to complete online homework, we had to get creative. After all, they couldn’t even email their teachers that our Internet was on the fritz or that the dog ate their homework. Our choices were either to head to a local coffee shop in search of a hotspot or drive to a neighbor’s driveway in the next town over and borrow a signal. We opted for the latter.


Throughout the day I thought off and on about my new author friend Tiffany Shlain’s book, 24/6: Giving Up Screens One Day a Week to Get More Time, Creativity, and Connection. She and her family had spent the last ten years taking “tech shabbats” (I could hardly last a day!). Every Friday at sundown, the Shlain family unplugs from all technology, and Saturday evening at sundown they plug back in.

What lessons did they learn in this tech-free time? While being disconnected they grew to appreciate connection. Shlain’s family baked, meditated, sang, played instruments, talked, hiked, told stories, read, got bored, and shared time together without the constant distraction of electronic devices. Her book teaches readers how to establish their own tech shabbats — and to think that my unplanned and unexpected 24-hour tech-free exile had felt so difficult, strange, and disconcerting. I felt a bit guilty. I vowed then and there to try to do better.

A few minutes before midnight, an automated text message came in from our service provider: “Your WiFi has been restored.” And you know what? As I lay in bed, my head resting on the pillow, I realized that I, too, was restored by a day of rest from technology’s draining magnetism. Being free gave me a sense of levity, gratitude, and equanimity.

Some parting thoughts about my imposed tech detox:

I cannot promise that this day will forever change me, but it will make me think twice when my daughter asks me to stop what I am doing, pull myself away from my phone or computer and engage with her. Here are some ways that we can make tech detoxing more of a habit:

  1. Unplug in small increments to clear your head

  2. Invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock and use that to get you up in the morning

  3. Read an actual newspaper or book — at least on the weekends — to feel the pages and rest your eyes from penetrating blue light

  4. For Apple Watch wearers, go back to an old-school wristwatch so that you are not always on

  5. Take a walk, hike, run, swim, bike ride, drive — whatever

  6. Write a hand-written note to a friend

  7. Do what feels good for you, and take your time: bake, bathe, eat, sing, meditate, and breathe

  8. Be grateful for the life that you live, and try to savor and reminisce about simpler times

  9. Appreciate the benefits of technology in your life, and cut out the toxicity if it is harming your relationships, mental health, or eyesight

  10. At bedtime, leave tech in the bathroom or kitchen, away from your bedroom so you have to physically go and retrieve it when you wake up


Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick is the author of several educational books for students and parents including The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World (Familius/Workman, 2020). She has worked in college admissions as an educational consultant, and as a high school teacher. She speaks professionally to parents, students, teachers, and businesses on topics such as study skills, the adolescent journey, college admission, and the parent compass movement. She is thrilled to have finally written her own children’s book, too, that arrives in the spring of 2023. She resides in Northern California with her two teens, husband, and dog, Sprinkle. Her two grown kids that have left the nest live on the East Coast.

For more information about the author: www.cynthiamuchnick.com, www.parentcompassbook.com, The Parent Compass