by Nina Zade
I approached my Day Without Technology thinking that it would be the most simple thing in the world– if I really found myself actually struggling to go one day without my cell phone or computer, how in control of my life could I possibly be? I’ve always been somewhat blasé about the idea of a “distraction addiction”, honestly believing that I could put my gadgets, as my mother calls them, away if I really wanted to.
I chose Saturday, April 12th as my official DWT. I figured that it could be like me keeping a Jewish Sabbath for once – my “digital Sabbath” – something I never really got around to doing since the influence of my parents is so far away. I knew that idle time would be my undoing, so I decided to plan out each activity that would keep me busy. I researched Thoreau’s Walden for inspiration and learned that he sought the “essential facts of life”, and I should seek the same. So I planned to read books, to journal, clean around the house, anything that was “essential” to my growth and would keep my mind occupied and my phone out of my hands. I let my phone and laptop run out of battery so even if I did impulsively reach for them, they wouldn’t work.
I woke up Saturday, April 12th, at 10:18 A.M. My watch was to be my most trusted friend on this day. I committed myself to showering and making breakfast, and then got started on my next venture: catching up on some not-so-light reading for my Political Theory class. I was ready to crush every Rousseau and Hobbes and Marx philosophical argument that came my way.
The first hour passed quickly. My determination for doing this right kept me going for some time, and I did get a lot done without even thinking about my electronics. But the human mind is constantly seeking new stimulation, creating an addiction to that which is constantly changing and otherwise known as technology. Alex Soojung Kim-Pang, author of the Distraction Addiction, talks about technology’s negative side and how some are led to live a life where “devices take the upper hand”. “They [devices] determine how we ought to behave and how we ought to deal with other people, or think about ourselves,” Kim-Pang says. Do my devices dictate my life? The thought alone is jarring. But as I sat with my books in front of me, I caught my mind drifting to thoughts about who could be texting me at this time, or what was new on Twitter and Instagram.
I eventually snapped out of my reverie and scolded myself for being so easily… distracted. I could feel tension building in my shoulders and neck, and realized that stressful activities so early in the day would completely turn me off from this entire experiment. Meditating often helps me not only to relax my body, but also allows me to confront my true feelings – in this case, I way trying to discover what I actually wanted to gain from my DWT.
I spent almost an hour stretching and thinking. It took a while, but I finally came to an understanding that all I really wanted was to do anything without obligations and expectations from other people. I didn’t want to worry about friends or parents or professors and what they anticipated from me. I only wanted to do what I actually desired, all for pure personal enjoyment. So I baked some cookies from the leftover cookie dough in the corner of the fridge and grabbed my oldest Archie comic to feel nostalgic. I wrote in my journal about my latest roommate drama, and decorated the face of an old mixed CD I kept around for memories. I painted my nails a weird color, and organized all of my clothes and shoes. I sat in front of the window and stared out until it got dark, just thinking about how nice the afternoon sun felt on my face or wondering about the lives of all the ant-sized people down below. I made myself a Hot Pocket and read a bit of Camille by Alexandre Dumas. Soon after, I drifted off to sleep.
I’m happy with the way my Day Without Technology went. Although I did not discover a new existential outlook on life like Henry David Thoreau, I enjoyed spending time with myself and away from everyday stressors that trigger unhealthy and addictive habits. It was much more difficult that I anticipated because contrary to my original belief, creating a strict schedule made this task into a chore, one I associated with the obligation of always doing well. Satisfying small, impulsive pleasures such as drawing or writing or looking out a window made me happiest because I only had me in mind. Although I appreciate what my cell phone and laptop do for me on a daily basis, I want my actions to reflect my feelings and my circumstances, rather than what is happening on Facebook. I have come to terms with the fact that I have an addiction, and I’m willing to slow my dependence on electronics. The first step to change is realizing you have a problem. “We have literally never lived in a world without technology,” says Kim-Pang. “Humans are made to use and to invent technologies, and in turn, over the last couple million years, we ourselves have been remade by our devices, by our technology.”