By Lara Tabbara
Spending a day without technology turned out to be more challenging than I had ever expected. For my Journalism class, we were required to complete this break from electronics as an experiment, to determine the role our cellphones and computers play in our daily routines. I chose President’s Day to complete the task, making sure all of my homework assignments were completed beforehand and warning my parents in Switzerland that my iPhone would be switched off, as to avoid them worrying and getting on a plane to come check on me.
The night before the isolation, I looked at my phone one last time, hoping that all of my friends and loved ones would send me their messages before sunrise. As I focused my tired eyes on the bright screen one last time, I took a deep breath and finally turned the phone off. After this, I tucked myself into bed, hoping the next day would pass by fast.
At first when I woke up, I could not tell what time it was. Still dazed from my slumber, I instinctively reached out for my cell phone that was located on my nightstand. I then started to panic, fearing that I could not find out the time. Luckily, some sense came into me. I got out of bed and strolled over to my kitchen, where there was a digital clock on the façade of the microwave. It displayed 11AM. Unfortunately, that was not my sole concern. 11AM meant that it was 5PM in Switzerland, which also meant that my friends and family back home were surely posting about their days on Facebook or sending me texts messages. This was probably the toughest part of the day. Curiosity paired up with anxiety were overwhelming. And this was only the beginning of this slow, monotonous day.
After my shower, I got dressed. But then I asked myself: “what am I dressing up for?” I hadn’t made any plans to meet up with friends (that would have tempted me to use their phones) so I had the day to myself.
I started by making myself some lunch. I usually never cook. Hence, due to my withdrawal from any technological device, I chose to actually use my kitchen. In the fridge there were two onions, some garlic and a lemon, in the freezer I had some frozen vegetables and ground beef and in my pantry I found a large bag of basmati rice. These ingredients are the base of most Lebanese cuisine so I decided to give it a shot. Using my feeble memory for recipes, I aimed to cook “Loubieh,” a Lebanese home cooked dish my mother always makes. After about an hour of agitation and oil splashes, the result was dull. I did not possess the diverse spices required for this meal, rendering my lunch tasteless.
I next decided to read and get ahead for one of my classes. As the passages in the book grew longer and that I had no distractions,such as cellphone or computer, I instantly fell asleep. When you are so used to an accessory, it becomes a basic necessity, similarly to nutrition. My cell phone literally reminded me of food.
In the summer of 2010, I traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, to visit my family and friends. This was during the month of Ramadan, in august. I usually do not fast, but for some reason I felt like sympathizing with my Muslim friends. Thus began a cycle of craving, fatigue, boredom and anxiousness, just like my withdrawal from technology. Without any desire to go outside and get tempted by people eating around me, I decided to take a long nap. I did the same three years later, when I self-confiscated my phone. Sleep is the best activity; while the individual slips deeper into the unconscious, time keeps passing.
For the second time that day, I woke up anxious. I grabbed my phone, stared at the lifeless screen, and put it back on the nightstand, frustrated. As I looked outside my window, the sky grew darker. It was just before 5PM. I then decided to put on some shoes and walk across the street to go pay a visit to my aunt and uncle, who live just a block away. This definitely was a distraction. As I entered their home, my year old baby cousin greeted me, with a warm smile drawn on her soft face. I spent the evening playing with her and enjoying quality time with the family. After dinner, I returned to my apartment, checked the time (it was 9:45PM) and finally gave in to the absence of electronics. I jumped on my bed, scooped up my phone and turned it on. I let a sigh of relief escape my lips as I started checking my messages, emails and Facebook.
Going on the Internet felt like a treat after this uneasy day. Prior to this experience, I would have imagined that spending some time away from both my phone and laptop would be relieving, and that it would help me tune out. I realized that it was the complete opposite. This exile from technology for me was like closing a window to my world. It was equal to isolating myself from my life in Switzerland. It confined me to my apartment. A day without technology for me was a day without enough human contact. It was a mild state of non-existence.