Shutdown Day advocates say go offline, get outside

TORONTO Thu May 1, 2008 2:00pm EDT

Ashutosh Rajekar poses for a photograph on the summit of Mont du Lac-des-Cygnes, at the edge of the Charlevoix meteorite crater, in Parc national des Grands-Jardins, Quebec, 2007. REUTERS/Andre-John Mas/Handout

Ashutosh Rajekar poses for a photograph on the summit of Mont du Lac-des-Cygnes, at the edge of the Charlevoix meteorite crater, in Parc national des Grands-Jardins, Quebec, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Andre-John Mas/Handout

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Tune out, turn off and get away from addictive electronics for 24 hours on May 3 and enjoy the outdoors.

That's the message from organizers of the second annual global Shutdown Day who say using computers, televisions and electronic gadgets is having a negative impact on society.

"People are failing to socialize with each other and they are becoming outcasts, they are becoming more and more introverted," said Montreal-based Shutdown Day co-founder Ashutosh Rajekar in an interview.

Last year the group received 50,000 pledges worldwide on their website www.shutdownday.org/ from people who said they would not use electronic gadgets for a day. So far this year, almost 12,000 have committed to going 24 hours without using a computer.

The group plans to clean up parks and plant trees on Shutdown Day in the Montreal area, but they hope advocates of the event will organize a variety of events around the world.

"It's an exercise in spreading awareness, so the first few times it's going to be a very new experience for people who've never been away from their computer, and they will hopefully realize it's not such a dangerous thing," Rajekar said.

The 29-year-old MBA student at McGill University works as a file systems architect for high-performance computing products. Last year, along with colleague Denis Bystrov, a software developer, and some friends, they came to the conclusion they were spending too much time in front of their computer screens.

They decided to hold Shutdown Day as a challenge to see how many people could go without a computer for an entire day.

Rajekar took up landscape photography in his spare time and Bystrov started playing soccer, fishing and cooking.

"We are not anarchists," Rajekar said, explaining that the group doesn't oppose practical computer use for such things as operating power plants or completing school assignments.

But if people are using computers to waste time on social networking sites or trolling the Internet and "basically finding an excuse not to socialize, then we believe things are not going well," he said.

(Reporting by Julie Mollins; editing by Rob Wilson)

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