William Meara, co-founder of the Unplug programme, said people are no longer managing technology — technology is managing them.
“If you look around any public transport it’s nothing but people glued to their phones or laptops,” said Mr Meara. “You even see people out on dates and they’re just looking at their phones. There’s no such thing as a nine to five workday anymore. We’re on 24/7 and everyone expects us to be. We’re moving towards a strange world where intimacy is becoming a luxury.”
Mr Meara, a founding member of early-morning alcohol-free rave initiative Morning Gloryville, became disillusioned with the constant need to be online, and realised how drained he was “spending hours on end, staring at a screen”.
Between his phone, his laptop, and other devices, William estimates he was sometimes spending up to 17 hours a day “hooked up to technology” and something needed to change.
After talking with fellow Unplug and Morning Gloryville co-founder Chris Flack, Mr Meara set up a digital detox programme for others who wanted to learn how to wind down from technology.
“So I did some research and I looked into a few different things and I came across some digital detoxes in the US and that and I saw a huge need for something like that in Ireland,” he said.
“Then we started brainstorming with some experts — psychologists, occupational therapists, tech experts, and other qualified people — just to see what we could do. And we thought this is a no-brainer, this needs to happen.”
The first Unplug weekend will be held from October 23 to 25 at Dunderry Park, Co Meath. Attendees can expect yoga, meditation, technology workshops, nature walks, blindfolded fireside storytelling, sensory sessions, touch therapy, Tibetan bowl therapy, and cooking classes.
“We want people to kick the habit of being tied to their phones,” said Mr Meara. “But unlike other digital detoxes, we’re not trying to ban technology altogether. We realise it’s an important part of people’s lives nowadays so we want to teach people to have a better relationship with it.
“This is a more sustainable method, I think, because it’s not like you’re just going away for a weekend, cutting out technology, then going back to work and becoming as bad as ever and being inundated with notifications.
“This way, we’re teaching people methods and techniques they can bring back with them, after the weekend is over so they can engage more with their lives.”