Irritated with going to restaurants where there are multiple TVs blasting, or everyone is glued to their cell phones and tablets? On August 21st, the cozy community of businesses that make up the La Mesa Village will come together to offer Tech Break Tuesday. On that special evening, several restaurants will offer incentives to customers to put down their cell phones and reconnect with their family and friends.

“Tech-Break Tuesday” is a component of the newly formed program called the Unplugged Village. The company name may conjure up images of a hippie commune but is really just a program with the mission to help people find ways to incorporate tech breaks into their daily lives. Claudia Erickson started the program after finding that too much tech time was taking a toll on her life and health. Over recent years, she has found many other people were concerned about the same issue and would offer to help, forming a village of support-that was the impetus for creating the name.

Erickson, who has a background in public health, offers resources and workshops on how to help curb the constant impulse to engage with tech devices. We need that now more than ever as adults spend over 9 hours a day consuming media (Common Sense Media 2016), with about a quarter of U.S. adults saying they are ‘almost constantly’ online (Pew survey Jan 2018). Spending too much time in the virtual world can lead to a whole host of issues including increased risk for: anxiety and depression, obesity, neck and musculo-skeletal problems, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and sleep problems. Despite these risks, technology is an integral part of most people’s daily lives and is not going away. “Like so many others,” Erickson says “I was using technology a good part of my day for work, but I realized I was checking my phone all the time and clearly needed to find ways to dial back my tech time a couple notches. I knew others were looking for the same thing and I hoped that offering a program in restaurants might be a good place to start.”

An unplugged dining program may be timely as a Pew Research Center survey in 2015 found that 88% of respondents believe it’s generally not okay to use a cell phone during a family dinner. In addition,
both Zagat and Consumer Reports found that excessive noise is the top complaint diners have-ahead of service, crowds, or even food issues. Despite this data, what we see in many restaurants today is loud music, an exhausting number of TVs and eyes glued to cell phones and tablets. If you like excitement that may work, but it clearly is not for everyone. Unplugged dining scenarios could be the key to encouraging a new habit for those not looking to turn their ADD buttons on overdrive while eating. “While a weekend digital detox may actually be what a lot of us need, not everyone is ready for that.” said Erickson. “Shorter tech breaks are a good way to start trying out the unplugged experience even if just for an hour.” Finding places where you can go that will support putting gadgets down is key. It’s challenging as tech is designed to be addictive and visual cues are everywhere. “Go to any restaurant or waiting room where people are on their phones and chances are good you will get an overwhelming urge to join in. Restaurants were traditionally a place for eating and face-to-face conversations. I wanted to find places that would support getting back to that model with incentives, fun signage and activities.” said Erickson.

On Tech Break Tuesday Aug 21, participating restaurants in the La Mesa Village will offer the cell phone stacking game and those that normally have TVs on, will have “TV sleeping” signs. At Centifonti’s restaurant, there will be live music by Suzie and the Playboys and customers who dine without their phones will have 10% of their total bill donated to charity.

The first Tech Break Tuesday was in July at the new Fourpenny House pub. The Owner, Peter Soutowood, took a chance with this dining experiment. He had no idea what to expect but was very supportive of the idea. According to Soutowood, “It was such an easy and obvious thing to do and we saw a big boost in new guests and sales (over 50% increase). All around it was a great success!” After that event, Erickson asked 3 other restaurants and they immediately came on board as well as some nearby businesses that wanted to support the next event. Amethyst Moon boutique, a Premier Sponsor of the event, is excited to help support this idea. “I think we need to get back to family time and conversation,” said Owner Theresa Favro.

Penske Ford in La Mesa and Laura Lothian Real Estate join Amethyst Moon in supporting the Aug 21st event which will go from 5-9pm. Restaurants participating are all located on La Mesa Blvd including: Centifonti’s(8365), Fourpenny House(8323), Trattoria Tiramisu (8273) and San Pasqual Winery Tasting Room (8364). Each location will offer specials for the evening. Visit www.unpluggedvillage.com or contact Claudia Erickson at (619) 248-6532 or cerickson@unpluggedvillage.com for more information about the unplugged dining program or to sign up for the Sept 18 Workshop “Control your Tech – Get Your Balance Back.”

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Tags: Unplugged, Village, break, dining, free, tech, unplugged

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