University challenged to ‘unplug’ for 4-8 hours

Elizabeth Worthington, News Co-Editor

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In an effort to disconnect from the electronic influences that often dominate our everyday lives, members of the University community were challenged to participate in the “Dancing Mind Challenge” on Oct. 21 by “unplugging” themselves from technology and dedicating a chunk of the day exclusively to reading. The challenge began in response to an essay written by Toni Morrison entitled “The Dancing Mind,” in which she discusses the benefits of reading and writing in a world overwhelmed by technology.

The challenge was hosted by the Griot Institute of Africana Studies, in partnership with the Library & IT department. Participants were asked to register online in a pledge to read for either four or eight consecutive hours and then write about their experiences on a blog dedicated to the challenge. The second floor lounge in the Bertrand Library was offered as a public space for participants to complete the challenge alongside their peers or colleagues, despite the isolating component of the challenge itself.

Director of the Women’s Resource Center, Kelsey Hicks, was able to “read, have some meaningful conversations, and re-center myself from the daily stresses of life.”

“This is important for people across generations because we get so caught up in the lives others are showing that we forget to live our own lives. We watch the fiction unfold on social media and forget the story of our lives is still being written,” Hicks said.

Graduate student Sam Lauer had difficulty settling into the first hour of the challenge, but found it easier after surpassing that initial hurdle.

“I think that the hardest thing about the challenge in that first hour was fighting the urge to cop out and grab my phone to scroll on social media for a reprieve,” Lauer said. She affirmed that she was grateful for the challenge because it enlightened her of the difficulty of focusing on something for a long period of time, something she believes most millennials struggle with as well.

“In this sense, the challenge is so important for millennials because we’re not realizing how much of our thought processes are hijacked by the ease of distraction that social media and other technologies provide[…]I hope more people attempt this challenge so that we can become more comfortable dancing with big ideas rather than shutting them down or escaping from their complexities,” Lauer said.

Writing and Teaching Consultant, Sabrina Kirby, also commented on how our attention spans suffer due to our increasing reliance on technology. Kirby does not usually use technology much on the weekends, something that likely differentiated her from the other participants in the challenge. She saw the opportunity as more of a “permission” to disconnect and ignore everything, in order to enjoy the world of a book. Kirby read for 4 hours on Saturday afternoon.

“I read the first half of a novel I’d been wanting to read for pleasure, something I rarely get to do during the academic year. And the pleasure rippled out from there: setting aside time to read caused me to re-prioritize my usual weekend activities, which caused me to be mindful about how I spent the rest of the time. As a result, I enjoyed the whole weekend more than usual,” Kirby said.

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