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Can true solitude be found in a wired world?
He has spent much of his career tackling the topic of loneliness and isolation, which researchers have proven can affect humans adversely, all the way down to gene expression.
“Feeling ignored sparks feelings of loneliness,” says Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago's Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.
But getting away, he says _ “that’s the opposite of being lonely.”
It’s time that you take by choice, Cacioppo says. So while the cognitive effects are still being studied, he says it’s very likely that that type of solitude is good for the brain.
Dan Rollman had little doubt of that when he and a few others from Reboot, a group of Jewish “thought leaders,” gathered in 2009. That’s when they created the Sabbath Manifesto, inspired by the traditional Jewish sabbath, but aimed at people from any background who are encouraged to unplug one day _ any day _ of the week.
The idea came to Rollman when he found himself craving a simpler time, when stores closed on Sundays and life slowed down.
The Manifesto _ described as “a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world” _ has 10 principles. They are suggestions ranging from “avoid technology” and “connect with loved ones” to “get outside,” “drink wine” and “find silence.”
To help with this, the organization has created “The Undo List” _ an email that arrives Friday afternoons “with ideas for conversation topics, readings, local outings and creative endeavors to ease the time away from technology and help make the day better.” There also are specific activities for subscribers in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Rollman himself avoids doing work on Saturdays, whenever he can, and often unplugs altogether then _ and encourages his employees to do the same.
“There’s a huge sense of relief,” Rollman says. “It is a liberating feeling to walk out of one’s door and not have your cellphone in your pocket.”
Leah Jones, a 35-year-old Chicagoan, hasn’t gone quite that far.
But she has cut back, turning her cellphone to “silent” mode from 11:30 p.m to 6 a.m. and putting it away when she goes out.
“I’m a better friend when I don’t have my phone in my hand,” says Jones, who is 35 and vice president of social and emerging media at Olson public relations.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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