Technology Shabbat

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Technology Shabbat or Tech Shabbat are terms for a rest or cessation from the use of all technology with screens, ie smartphones, computers, tablets and television. The term was first coined in 2010 by filmmaker and internet pioneer Tiffany Shlain and husband UC Berkeley robotics professor Ken Goldberg. Shlain introduced the concept in a series of articles and films such as the Harvard Business Review[1] after participating in The National Day of Unplugging, which began in 2008 by Reboot, a nonprofit think tank of Jewish professionals, based in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.[2] The Technology Shabbat was inspired by the traditional Shabbat or Sabbath, a weekly day of rest in most popular religions.[3][4]


Although not named as such, the concept of a Technology Shabbat evolved as early on as the creation of the internet, with more people participating since the advent of portable devices, according to Mark Glaser, editor of MediaShift on[5][6] In the mid-1980s, Secretary of State George Shultz would take an hour each week in his office for quiet reflection with only a paper and pen.[7] Shlain first disconnected in 2008, when her father, Leonard Shlain was diagnosed with brain cancer. During his infrequent lucid moments, she'd turn off her cell phone.[8][9] Soon after, she and her husband Ken Goldberg, as members of Reboots, participated in the first annual National Day of Unplugging, and contributed a poem to commemorate the day, which was turned into a film by Shlain called "Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl'".[5] Around that time, their family began the ritual of Technology Shabbats.


For a Technology Shabbat, all screens are turned off for 24 hours, and many of those who partake chose Friday night until Saturday night. Suggested alternatives to technology include activities like reading books, taking walks, visiting new neighborhoods, engaging in outdoor activities and using pen and paper.[5]

“The Internet is a vortex,” Portland writer Tammy Strobel told the Oregonian as the reason she and her husband turn off the computer on Sundays to observe Tech Sabbath. “I can get lost in it for hours. And time is something we can never get back.”[5]

Among the rabbis who advocate unplugging for the Jewish Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset are New York City's Elliot J. Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue.[2]


The concept of Technology Shabbat has been featured in several films made by Shlain. These include "Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death, & Technology"[10] in 2011, "Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl'" in 2011, "Technology Shabbats"[9] in 2013, "A Case For Dreaming"[11] in 2014, and "Making of a Mensch"[8] in 2015.


  1. ^ Shlain, Tiffany (March 1, 2013). "Tech's Best Feature: The Off Switch". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b Considine, Austin (March 17, 2010). "And on the Sabbath, the iPhones Shall Rest". NY Times 2. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  3. ^ Ngak, Chenda (December 4, 2013). "In digital age, where do parents set boundaries?". CBS News. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  4. ^ "A tour of an unplugged SF home". San Francisco Chronicle. January 13, 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Levy, Shawn (May 4, 2012). "A Tech Sabbath offers a chance to unplug, recharge". Oregonian. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  6. ^ Glaser, Mark (June 8, 2012). "Poll: How Often Do You Take a Break from Technology?". MediaShift. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  7. ^ Leonhardt, David (April 18, 2017). "You're Too Busy. You Need a 'Shultz Hour.'". NY Times. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  8. ^ a b Friedman, Gabe (August 24, 2015). "The 'digital diva' is on a quest for the makings of a mensch". Times of Israel. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  9. ^ a b Cohen, Anne (October 15, 2013). "Tiffany Shlain on the Web, Women and Unplugging for Shabbat". Forward. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  10. ^ Israel, Ira (May 4, 2012). "In crazybusy era of always being in touch, are we losing touch". Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  11. ^ Barba, Ronald (October 23, 2014). "Season 2 of Emmy-Nominated 'The Future Starts Here' Premieres Today". Retrieved 8 February 2018.

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