Almost Unplugged

Ditch digital overload with these simple downloads.

By Ashley Aram

It’s Monday morning, your coffee is brewing, and a new text message pops up on your phone. You stare at your laptop, browsing the multiple tabs—e-mail, Facebook, CNN, and your bank account—all while streaming NPR in the background. Sound familiar? Multitasking is nothing new, but technological advances in the last 30 years have acted like steroids to our task-juggling habits, keeping our brains, stress, and cellphones turned on more than ever.

But the solution to the problem may be more simple than you think—just hit the “off” button. Turn off your cellphone, your computer, your tablet, and your television. According to journalist and author Nicholas Carr, tuning out may be just what you need. In his book, The Shallows, Carr explains how our brains change with our constant use of technology. “Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts—the faster, the better,” he explains.

In other words, shutting off our electronics on a regular basis could jump start that linear mind we so obviously neglect. But that’s easier said than done. In this day and age, some of us would struggle holding down a job, let alone a relationship, if we were constantly disconnected. We can’t unplug completely, but we can choose to make the most of the time we spend connected.


Best: LinkedIn
Worst: Twitter

With its professional layout, LinkedIn forces you to reach out to others with little distraction. Twitter, on the other hand, is a meaningless dump of random thoughts at 140 words or less, resulting in few long-lasting connections.


Best: Clear
Worst: Notes

Clear is a one-stop shop for everything you could possibly need to remember, do, or bookmark. Notes, the free app that comes with most smartphones, requires an exorbitant amount of time to organize your life—saving you none.


Best: Instapaper
Worst: CNN

CNN’s app, with its random pop-ups of “breaking news,” gets you distracted and fiddling on your phone. Trade it in for Instapaper, a top-rated app that saves articles you see during the day in a format specific to your phone, allowing you to revisit them later.


Best: Words With Friends
Worst: Angry Birds

A quick break from work helps you recharge. Words with Friends lets you plop down your tiles and get back to the daily grind, while Angry Birds just fosters a strange addiction for shooting birds at pigs.