Going Through Withdrawl: A Day Without Technology

Bobst Library, where I spent some of my time without my precious electronics.

Bobst Library, where I spent some of my time without my precious electronics.

by Thomas Bonnell

When I heard about the Day without Technology assignment, I was skeptical. Living without my cell phone, computer, or iPad for twenty-four hours sounded peculiar. I thought I wouldn’t be able to hold up without checking emails or texts from my girlfriend. I largely proved myself right.

The most difficult part of the day was finding things to do. Without the draw of a computer and the infinite time sink of Facebook and twenty-four hour news networks available, I turned to doing things outdoors to occupy my time. I took a walk in the afternoon, and went around NYU for people to talk to. I used a pay phone in the afternoon to meet my friends at Central Park, envious as ever at their constant checking of cell phones while my pocket remained dormant.

Around 4:38 PM I cracked, and scoured ESPN for five minutes on my iPod. I had spent about six hours without technology, and it was simply unbearable. To compensate for my transgression, I decided to be even more rigid. The literal interpretation of the “Day Without Technology” meant that I could not even access my history reading on Blackboard, and I had to physically go find a book to read in Bobst.  That took me until dinnertime, and, without any of contacting anyone to dine with, I settled for a slice of pizza, alone.

Afterwards, I took the R train back to my apartment and went to sleep a full four hours before I usually do. When I rode the subway I had nothing to do; I caught myself staring at other people, as if they were supposed to provide me with much needed entertainment.

The most obvious effect from the day was that life seemed stripped down to basic necessities and all was quiet, much too quiet. I felt alarmingly alone. I seemed to be a subject in a dystopian sensory deprivation experiment. I longed to touch a touch screen.

Contacting anyone, be it friends or parents, was impossible. I found I didn’t know their phone numbers by heart and this made the day quite lonely. Even using a payphone was difficult: the first two I tried either didn’t have an actual phone inside of them or didn’t come with a dial tone.  No dial tone: it seemed to symbolize the entire day.

Without my cell phone or my laptop, it felt like there was a gaping hole in my life. I would constantly reach absent-mindedly inside my pocket, but found only emptiness. I had no way of checking my email to know if I had an important, last minute assignment for class the next day. And what about news? What was happening in the world? I didn’t know. Everyone else might know something I didn’t. I started to feel paranoid and alone.

I wouldn’t ever repeat this experience or wish it on anyone who lives in a first-world country. I can’t believe that most citizens in third-world countries live like this every day. While purists might scorn us for relying too heavily on technology, the use of the internet, cell phones and email has certainly enriched my life rather, and hasn’t diminished the inter-personal relationships I have but in fact connects me with others and the world.

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