The GOOD 30-Day Challenge: Unplug at 8

For our new challenge, we're asking you to get off the computer. Bad for our traffic, good for your sanity!

Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do The GOOD 30-Day Challenge, a monthly attempt to live better.

In December 2010, the average American was on the internet 13 hours per week, an increase of 121 percent since 2005. The average Facebook user now spends 7 hours on the site per month, and the population of Twitter users grew by more than 1,400 percent in 2009. The UN declared the internet a basic human right in June, but people in the U.S. have treated it as such for years. We have the internet at our computers, on our video game consoles, on our TVs, and, increasingly, in our pockets—this year, smartphones will overtake regular cellphones as the go-to device. For those of us who sit in front of a computer all day long, time spent offline is rare (or, if we've got a smartphone, nonexistent). With everyone so plugged in all the time, is it any wonder some of us are going a little haywire?

In 2009 reSTART, an internet addiction therapy center, opened outside of Seattle. For $14,000 patients get 45 days of intense psychotherapy designed to break their habit of being online 16, 17, 18 hours a day. in an online resource that's been around since 1995 for people whose entire lives have been destroyed by their inability to stop being on the internet. According to Scientific American, "internet addiction, primarily through online multiplayer games, rewires structures deep in the brain. What's more, surface-level brain matter appears to shrink in step with the duration of online addiction."

Whether or not internet addiction is a real disorder, one thing is sure: It wouldn't be a bad idea for everyone to go online a bit less, for sanity, for safety, and for family. That's the idea behind this month's GOOD 30-Day Challenge, Unplug at Eight.

The rules are simple: After 8 p.m. on weekdays, you get off the internet. No email, no blogging, you can't even read If you use your computer like a TV for watching movies and shows, that's fine, but nothing else. Sound tough? This is how GOOD staffers reacted when we suggested evenings without the internet:


This month, let's get away from our screens and talk to our families instead of our followers. Eat and enjoy our food instead of taking pictures of it for our Tumblrs. Send a nice handwritten letter instead of an email. After 8 p.m. every day this month, let's remember what life was like before we sat in the flickering glow of a screen all day every day.