Students, faculty and staff to disconnect and embrace the college community in real life

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, students and faculty at the Columbus College of Art & Design will be a little harder to reach. There will be no flurry of texts between (or during) classes, no emails, no tweets. The plunge back to the relative antiquity of the 1990s is called Unplugged Day, a new initiative that encourages people across campus to take a 24-hour break from their smartphones and the addictive but anxiety-producing trappings of modern technology and social media.

In advance of this brief digital dark age, Columbus Monthly reached out via email to senior Mickenzie Willars, the president of CCAD’s Student Government Association, to find out more.

How did the idea for Unplugged Day come about?

The concept for Unplugged Day came about from student government's presence at a board of trustees meeting last year. A board member had raised some concerns about students being stressed and anxious. We knew from a [Healthy Minds Study] that rates of depression had increased among CCAD students, so we were searching for a way we could help. We knew this wasn’t a problem we could solve in one way with one event, but as a collective, we decided to look at how our use of technology plays a part.

What was the appeal from the perspective of the student government?

I'd say a large part of the appeal on our end was the possibility of finding a new way we could help foster healthy creativity across campus. As student leaders, we're constantly searching for ways we can advocate for wellness and bring about positive change, so when we brainstormed this idea, we were all pretty excited to bring it to life.

What has the reception among students and faculty been like? Do you get the sense that many students are going to make an effort?

The reception has been great so far. I've had a few professors approach me and tell me how excited they are for Unplugged Day, and students seem to be a mixture of excited and curious. Students and faculty from various groups on campus are even setting up their own events to help push the idea of unplugging, and I think that's awesome. I know many people across campus are eager to see if this can become a CCAD tradition.

Do you feel overly connected or reliant on your smartphone? How much time do you spend on your devices each day?

Personally, I feel quite connected to my smartphone. It goes everywhere with me. Heck, my morning alarm is on my phone, so I quite literally start the day using it. I think a lot of us get that rush of panic when we reach into our pocket for our phone only to find it's not there.

I'm studying advertising and graphic design, so a lot of what I do is digital and happens within my laptop/iPad. I'd say for academic purposes, I'm on my devices for about eight or so hours a day.

What’s the thing you’ll miss the most or be most tempted to use your phone for?

When I'm not using my devices for school or work, I'm usually just scrolling through social media in my downtime. I think it will be a fun challenge to see how I'm able to fill my free time if I'm not browsing Twitter or Instagram. Overall, I don't think we're a very social media-dependent campus, so I don't think this will be super difficult for students.

What do you hope students take away from the day? Are you hoping for any long-term change in behavior?

I hope students, staff and faculty all use this day as an opportunity to step back and see how being connected affects their mental health. Being plugged in 24/7 can really exhaust a person, oftentimes without them noticing, so I think Unplugged Day will be a great eye-opener for everyone. In the end, it's all about wellness and healthy creativity, so I do hope students are able to achieve that.

Will it become an annual event at CCAD?

I sure hope so! The concept behind Unplugged Day has the potential to be really impactful in all kinds of different ways, so I'd really love to see this event grow and become a tradition here at CCAD.

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