Surviving Isolation: A Day without Technology

By Yelin (Christina) Chung
A quiet cafe where an technology-less lunch produced multiple awkward silences between best friends.

A quiet cafe where a technology-less lunch produced multiple awkward silences between two best friends.

          Before my eyes even opened, my first instinct was to reach for my cellphone. I groggily wondered why my alarm had not gone off, but I remembered that I had planned to abstain from my phone or computer for the day. Almost immediately, a feeling of dread filled me as I realized that this task might be harder than I had realized.

I continuously felt the urge to reach for my phone about every three minutes. It felt excruciating to simply brush my teeth and get dressed without thinking about my phone.

Practically unable to function without a frequent time-check, I quickly slapped on an old watch that had been a birthday present a few years back. It was the first time I used it, and I realized how rusty my analog-clock reading skills had gotten.

 

“Don’t you feel naked?” My best friend, Maggie Yang, asked me during lunchtime. She had to grab my electronic confirmation beeper in my stead when we placed our orders at a restaurant.

Naked? It was a strange adjective to describe the situation. But then again, these situations were rare to encounter.

Yes, I felt naked without my cellphone or laptop.

         “Well, thank goodness I don’t own more electronics. Or else I’d feel worse.” I said in reply, which was true. I imagined all else that I would have been missing if I had more ways to access media and electronics.

Maggie did her best to avoid talking about things that she had seen on the internet, Facebook, or Twitter, as to not make me feel worse. In this attempt, our normally talk-filled meals turned quiet and pensive. Perhaps even a little awkward at one point.

I avoided any of my other friends, hoping that they wouldn’t miss me too much during the 24 hour window, and I was glad that I had aforementioned my possible forced isolation. To be disconnected from the world in such a state was rather nerve-wracking, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel burdened.

On the bright side, I took advantage of this technology-free day to catch up on homework and readings that I had been pushing aside. I realized there was little else to do besides occupy myself with more tangible ways of studying.

I encountered 'The Piano Man' in Washington Square Park during a brief stroll through the city to ease my mind.

I encountered ‘The Piano Man’ in Washington Square Park during a brief stroll through the city to ease my mind.

         I also rediscovered how wonderful simply writing was–the feeling of my pen slide across the blank page brought a clandestine rush to my fingertips–, and how it was difficult to sit and stay focused for elongated periods of time.

Douglas Rushkoff’s words popped in my mind, “prophecy no longer feels like a description of the future, but, rather, a guide to the present”. Things are now designed to see how long they can grab our attention for, and many social media platforms hinge on what is the most ‘present’ and ‘now’ of information, whether they are tied to our personal social circles or worldwide.

Because my cellphone and the internet connected to me to the only things I considered as the “now” and “present”, I felt stripped from the normal stream of life. Thinking back now, I noticed that if I were on Facebook or Twitter, or even Instagram, I would be bombarded with needless information.

         ‘One of my high school friends just changed her profile picture, a distant relative shared a video of his newborn, a former teacher updated her status…’ all these things would not be relevant to my life, in even in the smallest regard.

However, this is not all entirely true. The day right after my Day Without Technology, I was confused in many conversations with my closest friends. They mentioned many of these irrelevant things (updates and shared pictures from various social media outlets), casually bringing it into conversations, and in a moment of clarity, I connected this to be the “Now-ist pop culture” that Rushkoff referred to.

This was it, the relevant and quick-paced information age transformed and condensed into this tiny microcosm before my eyes.

         After surviving the day of disconnection, I have slowly weaned myself off of my phone and laptop, using them only when needed. And I learned that I can still carry deep and meaningful conversations, not only about others but also about personal insights.

I even had time to water my two Succulent plants.

I even had time to water my two tiny Succulent plants.

——
Quotes from: Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.
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