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An Alternative to SXSW: Unplug Yourself

And who needs human interaction, anyway?

By Chase Hoffberger, 10:00AM, Fri. Mar. 7

An Alternative to SXSW: Unplug Yourself
Via Samuel M. Livingston/Flickr

Rise and shine, Austin. Today’s Friday, March 7: the first day of South by Southwest. A chance for you and yours to take part in the most massive surge protector-sharing program this world has ever seen.

Unless, of course, that’s not really your style and your living here isn’t directly coordinated with the idea that a world of innovation and adventure’s currently down the street. Should that be the case, we’ve found you a convenient ally.

Today marks the first day of the Sabbath Manifesto’s National Day of Unplugging, a two-day (we realize…) initiative now in its fifth year that implores everyone who chooses to observe it to unplug their devices, throw them in a closet somewhere, and not return to their LED screens for a full 24 hours. The concept derives from the same organization’s methodology the preaches weekly unpluggings year-round.

A representative from Sabbath Manifesto wrote to make clear that National Day of Unplugging’s accordance with the first days of SXSW is not at all a coincidence. "We are encouraging people to put down their phones and stop their status updates – at least for a while – to talk face to face with each other,” she writes, adding that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister will be in the house to hand out cell phone sleeping bags. Either way, here’s assuming there won’t be much overlap between the two parties.

Those who fall firmly into the middle of this Venn diagram and want to text and tweet all day while steering clear of the chaos that comes with South by Southwest may want to consult Avoid Humans, the latest Web-vention of mega local advertising agency GSD&M. The site scans Foursquare check-ins at local bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and various other locations of congregation, and then transmits a colorful character – red, yellow, and green – to tell users how many people are there. Green means it's safe to go there; yellow suggests you proceed with caution; red represents a scene “more crowded than a UT football game when the UT football team was good.”

A quick scan of the database one day before the dawn shows that every eating establishment around the Convention Center – Moonshine, Iron Works, Easy Tiger, etc. – is totally jammed, while Barbarella, Stubb’s, 219 West, and the Mohawk are wide open.

That’s sure to change as the festival hits full swing, but it serves as a strong reminder: This week, if you’re planning to plug in, you might want to maintain some reverence for the spaces in which you can find a socket.

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