Open with a loud explosion. You immediately feel an extreme sense of panic. You look at your phone, but the screen is black. You open your computer, and the same thing happened. Your television is completely black too. It seems that all of your technology is exactly the same—black. You do not have email, texting, phone calls, messaging. There is no way for you to contact anyone you know or love. In this moment, you are completely alone. It is every Y2Ker’s nightmare.
My day without technology, however, did not include cataclysmic explosions or mass chaos. In fact, it was downright relaxing and refreshing. I did not feel attached to my phone or the Internet. There was not a constant yammering in my head about homework and papers and emails. It was a day where I could just be with myself.
On my day off, I enjoyed a day full of reading for enjoyment, from an actual book. Yes, I ditched the nook to be reminded of the lovely smell and texture of tangible pages. I finally tried out the recipe for Nutella cheesecake brownies, which turned out like square chocolates bricks dropped from heaven. I also used a real cookbook for the first time since Thanksgiving.
The highlight of my techno-free day was a long jog along the Hudson. My jogs usually consist of me running angrily with headphones securely tucked in my ears, while I avoid eye contact with all those passing by. This time, I did not have my head phones to guard me. I could not hide behind them and exude an “I am too busy to acknowledge you” attitude. I felt oddly vulnerable. Though I feel New Yorkers get a bad wrap about being unfriendly, we do often avoid anything that would even slightly decrease our façade of extreme independence. That day, though, I enjoyed the Jersey landscape much more than usual. It seemed to sparkle across the water.
I visit the Hudson and Battery Park often, but it is always with phone in hand. This meant that my phoneless self had to resort to doing something I loathe—aski for directions. There is nothing that undermines my New York pride than asking for directions, but I had no choice. I am not extremely fluent with the financial district, so I got a tad lost. Google Maps probably would have solved my problem in seconds, but it was a bit too much for me to figure out in the faded light.
After much deliberation, I embarrassingly asked a passerby to direct me to the blue line, which he willingly did without a problem. I thanked him, and he just smiled and said no problem. I had probably spent three minutes overcoming my pride to ask someone. Why? What was so bad about it? It was outside of my realm of comfort due to technology, but five years ago, asking for directions was commonplace.
When reflecting on my daily life, I now notice two major themes—avoidance of others while also being extremely interconnected. I would not say that I am rude or antisocial, but I do not like people interfering with my plans or my schedule. While on subways or walking to class, I listen to music. If I am at a dining hall alone, I am watching television on my laptop while working on homework. All of these things allow me to create my own bubble of me. My thoughts, my values, my schedule, my goals, everything stays in my bubble without letting anything else in. But I now can’t help but think how absurd this is. I live in a city with millions of the most interesting people in the world, and my life is too busy to sit and talk with one? Or, rather, talk to one in person, instead of texting, tweeting, or Facebook messaging them.
Technology gives this strange illusion of human interaction, but if I spend my Friday night in my dorm texting my friends, didn’t I still just spend my night alone? Some nights I stay in looking at funny memes or gifs on the Internet, posting them on my friends’ Facebook walls. Recently I have realized, though, that my favorite “Internet friends” are really difficult to interact with in person, which seems incredibly counterintuitive. Yet, it is fairly representative of our society. We probably interact with a record amount of people a day, but with how many people of these people do we truly connect? Probably only an extremely minute fraction of that number.
The next time I go on a run, I just might purposely forget my phone at home. I can only hope that it will offer me more insight like my day without technology did.