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Don't Unplug

How Technology Saved My Life and Can Save Yours Too. -St Martins Press. 2018

In 2002, Chris Dancy was overweight, unemployed, and addicted to technology. He chain-smoked cigarettes, popped pills, and was angry and depressed. But when he discovered that his mother kept a record of almost every detail of his childhood, an idea began to form. Could knowing the status of every aspect of his body and how his lifestyle affected his health help him learn to take care of himself? By harnessing the story of his life, could he learn to harness his own bad habits?

With a little tech know-how combined with a healthy dose of reality, every app, sensor, and data point in Dancy's life was turned upside down and examined. What Marie Kondo did for closets, Dancy did to his phone and life—and now he's sharing what he knows. That knowledge includes the fact that changing the color of his credit card helps him to use it less often, and that nostalgia is a trigger for gratitude for him. 

A modern-day story of rebirth and redemption, Chris' wisdom and insight will show readers how to improve their lives by paying attention to the relationship between how we move, what we eat, who we spend time with, and how it all makes us feel. But Chris has done all the hard work: Don't Unplug shows us how we too can transform our lives.



🔈Audio Sample

Browse the Habit Store. The habit store is a collection of tools, plugins and apps that bring digital wellbeing to your devices and apps!

Praise For Dancy

FEEDBACK FOR "Don't Unplug"

Chris offers a raw and personal view of how technology can consume you and through his experiences offers insights to how you should consume technology to live a healthy life.
— Miriam McLemore, Enterprise Strategist Amazon, former CIO Coca-Cola
“Don’t Unplug” is Dancy’s absorbing memoir of his remarkable journey from his Mom’s basement to the world stage. Both his descent into irrelevance and his subsequent metamorphosis into a highly-sought-after digital sage were on the wings of his obsessive, recorded, measured and minutely examined life, something only possible by a consummate technologist in the prime of technology. His beguiling story becomes an object lesson in how to make your life better with tech, while simultaneously making tech better with your life.
— Alan Cooper-Father of Visual Basic and Computer History Museum Fellow
In a world where corporations and governments/outside forces use our data to monitor and manipulate our lives, we need guides who can show us how to take back control. Having lived the highs and lows of what technology can do to us as humans, Chris Dancy is a herald of the future we need to build. Don’t Unplug is full of powerful stories, valuable insights and practical advice of how to be a better human in a world where the pace of change of technology is only going to increase. Do you want to ride the digital roller-coaster or be ridden? This book will make sure you make the right choice.
— Rohan Gunatillake, Author “This is Happening: Redesigning mindfulness for our very modern lives” and CEO buddhify.
In “Don’t Unplug”, Chris Dancy uses the power of storytelling to expose us to his incredibly personal and most vulnerable experiences and life lessons. Using every technology imaginable, and unlocking the data to create his absolute best self, Dancy shares the greatest 10 years of his life so far. Not satisfied with just saving himself, Dancy’s focus has turned to saving every one of us, reminding us that to be a truly mindful cyborg, we should stop once in a while, and smell the digital roses.
— Julia Raue, Director, TVNZ, former CIO Air New Zealand
Chris is one of the bravest souls I’ve met. His relentless pursuit of the truth is a non-traditional dangerous path that most fear and would cringe to take. It is because of this that I listen intently whenever I get to hear him speak as I know what I’m hearing will be the truth rather than beautiful words.
— Kristin Hildebrand, Founder WONE, former Global Concept Director, Nike
“Chris Dancy uses digital data to measure everything about himself so he can live a healthier life. He’s a genius”
— Rachel Hunter, Model and Actress
”When Chris Dancy says he’s our future, we should take it as both invitation and threat. Here’s a vision of what you’ll feel is either the next stage of humanity, or it’s utter dissolution. If you want to optimize human beings for cyborg reality, this is the direction to go. If you’re afraid of what it means to live in a society where humans are programmed like anything else, then this is the nightmare, articulated.”
— Douglas Rushkoff Author “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus"
— Wired Magazine June 2018

Why I wrote this book

My publisher Elisabeth at Macmillan will often say to me, "Don’t hurry Chris, only you can write this book". Yet as I watched people around the world start to become soup in the digital melting pot of our flat interconnected lives, I felt a sense of urgency. 

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I needed to capture my story, to use my journals, notes, and data on how I wired up over the past decade and overcame some of my most significant life challenges using technology and in some cases creating new problems. While I conquered a lifelong battle with obesity, smoking, drugs, and drinking, I created a massive new issue with isolation, loneliness and a type of PTSD from my use of technology. 

Yet once I understood where I was misusing technology, I didn’t unplug, instead, I looked for healthier ways to consume and use technology.


My own journey of digital enlightenment and mental wellbeing started in 2014 when I started a podcast and meetup called “Mindful Cyborgs” to address, support and spread tips on taking technology and wellness beyond the hype and unreality of digital detox, shock bands, and start to embrace what Tristan Harris and the Time Well Spent Movement were asking for. 

The urgency to get "Don't Unplug -How Technology Saved My Life and Can Save Yours Too." in the the wild comes from two widely different dialogs entering the mainstream about digital technology and our health


First Silicon Valley is waking up to the “problem” of technology and human well-being. Recently Google announced their digital wellbeing initiative and Amazon and Apple are starting to posture to be proponents of family wellness. Apple has been on the forefront of physical and mental digital wellbeing since 2014 when they released Apple Health and Apple Watch

Are we to “trust” Silicon Valley with our bodies, and minds? Have these companies been good stewards of our wellbeing? Do we really need to download another app to stop using our phone so often? Is Orwellian surveillance on our smart device to help us "understand" our habits the right direction? My early opinion is that digital methadone isn’t an option. 

The conversations we should be focusing on is what life is like AFTER our smart phones. Silicon Valley is heading toward a world where the screen that people squarely blame for their woes and dwindling attention spans is smack in the middle of replacing all visible signs of technology with tools that have no interface at all.

Amazon most successful piece of technology, the Echo, uses voice as it’s interface and Apple’s last two pieces of breakthrough technology have no screen at all, Apple AirPods and HomePod. Google is pressing full speed ahead with their AI initiative and even starting to promote their “smart” jacket partnerships with Levis with "upgrades" to the clothing. 

How do we “fix” digital wellbeing in a world where there are no screens and we download invisible habits that seamlessly nudge us through the day?


The second trend was mass media’s attention on the perceived "toxicity of technology".  Open any browser, pick up a magazine you’ll find a story about how Facebook, your smartphone or AI is going to ruin your life. The media is in the midst of its own challenges. Disruption from platforms splintering readers, influencers grabbing views and finding viable revenue models that don’t alienate their readers with intrusive advertising in the age of ad blockers and browsers that spend more time in private mode than browsing. 

Can we trust the media to be unbiased about technology and technology use in an age where so much of what is created for our consumption seems to be headline driven? Page view optimized and Socially engineered for sharing?

I'm not sure I am a good judge of our trust of the media and technology, I have benefited a great deal from both, but I do feel I am a messenger of sorts about how our world is unfolding.


I wrote this book because there needs to be a patient zero willing to come forward to talk about digital health, online friendships, and app-driven relationships.  We need to be optimistic, open and hopeful as we look forward to the next 10 years.  I’m here because I didn't unplug, and neither should you. 



The TL;DR version of "Don't Unplug -Embracing Technology to Improve Your Life"


"Don't Unplug" has four main focus areas. Relationships, Technology, Health, and Spirituality. Four sections make up my book with each containing personal stories, tips and opinion on many of today's most challenging technological areas and each chapter was written to stand on its own. The journey is prefaced with a story of my mothers love and her own data hoarding strategy, and the epilogue is an intimate look at my relationship with my husband through the lens of technology.  





How to move from valuing our schedules to scheduling our values. I meet so many people around the world who tell me they are struggling with their spouses, friends, and children. They feel helpless "lost" to their technology addiction. More critically, young people write to me asking for help in meeting that special someone. Readers will find tips, stories, and takeaways to make loving and living in the age of app mediated intimacy. 


Moving from applications to habits. An exploration of technology that will be used in the future after the smartphone and the age of the screen has come to an end. If you're in technology or are a technology fan, the book will answer many questions about how I created the systems I did and more importantly how I adapted them for my evolving understanding of a post "Interface" world.  


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Maybe you're an elite bio-hacker, perhaps you just got your first Fitbit, it doesn't' matter. The book will cover everything from the basics of where and when to eat, to how the moon might be throwing off your sleep. There is no part of your health and well-being that isn't changed by the technology connecting you to the world.  



Like so many of the stories and guides in the marketplace, mine would not be complete if I didn't share with you how I discontinued 20 years of antidepressants and benzodiazepines. My single most significant triumph of wiring up has to be the ways I learned to understand my mood and start to love any "version" of me that happens to be online in that moment. If you're seeking a path, let my story be an examination of the examined life, mind and heart. 




"Don't Unplug" is broken into four sections chronicling my journey from 2008-2018.

  • Data (2008-2010) - Includes how I monitored social media, entertainment, and online opinion. 
  • Information (2010-2012) - Chronicles my journey into creating content for the web, hacking my employment to get ahead and ways I found to curb and control my financial health
  • Knowledge  (2012-2014) - Peels the covers back on the steps I took to get control of my physical health and utilized my environment to improve my whole person. 
  • Wisdom (2014-2016) - Is a comprehensive review of the steps I took to enhance my spirituality and the lengths I went to understand my moods and explore self-love.