National Day of Unplugging challenges people to avoid digital devices

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Tech savvy people are being asked to turn off their smartphones, tablets, and laptops for the National Day of Unplugging, which started at sundown Friday night and lasts until sundown Saturday.

It's part of a national movement that has spread worldwide to more than 125 countries.

The non-profit Reboot started the unplugging campaign three years ago to make socializing less about social media and more about real face time.

"You'd be out to dinner and you'd see people at the same table together not even engaging at all, they were both on their phone," said Tanya Schevitz, a spokeswoman for Reboot's National Day of Unplugging.

An unplugged party at the North Beach nightclub Broadway Studio in San Francisco Friday night, drew hundreds of people, with a line out the door of others waiting to get in.

The guests were greeted at the door by people dressed in hazmat suits.

"It's a digital detox," the greeters said as they pointed guests to a table. Instead of checking coats, people were asked to leave their phones at the door.

"It's a little bit weird, I have a little anxiety but I think it's going to be a good thing," said Michael Sui of San Francisco who was attending with a friend.

Inside, there were tables with vintage typewriters where messaging involved typing on paper. People had real face to face time, linking in, connecting and getting status updates while playing games, arts and crafts, and free massages.

Or for some people, the night was about having a cocktail at the bar and listening to some good (acoustic) music.

Kirsten Ohm of San Francisco used to work in Silicon Valley and says she likes the idea of unplugging, "In Silicon Valley, yeah, a lot of people tend to tech out," Ohm told KTVU.

Tech out, she says, instead of hang out, which is what Friday's unplugged party was all about.

"We're not preoccupied with our phone, are we missing a text, is someone liking one of our Instagram posts, we're just here. There's nothing else to grab for your attention," said Sachi Doctor of San Francisco, who left her phone at home.

San Francisco's Rec and Parks is also unplugging with events Saturday.

"The Zumba and the nature walks will have an extra little unplugging twist where we talk about the importance of it and actually ask people to participate," said Sarah Ballard, a department spokeswoman.

For many, who use tech every day, the Day of Unplugging is a reminder.

"Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Snapchat, Instagram," said Alexander Ari, a San Francisco resident from Macedonia, "We're too much connected with our devices and it's a good getaway."

"It's really nice to be able to focus on each other and connect and have an analog experience," said Michael Sui as he entered the party.

As guests left the party, they received a little "sleeping bag" for their digital device, to put it to rest until the campaign ends Saturday night.