My day without technology came about quite accidentally: on one fateful Saturday a few months ago, I found myself ensnared in a beleaguered college student’s Perfect Storm: with copious assignments, articles and reading responses due the following Monday, my computer crashed like the Hindenburg and refused to boot up, making an ominous three-toned beeping sound whenever I tried. To top things off, the previous day I’d lost my iPhone charger and was thus left with a sad, silent hunk of Apple technology that no longer lit up when I touched it. I’m not a complainer, though. I remembered my Journalism assignment and I decided to roll with my forced luddite-status.
Here’s the thing: I find most condemnations of society’s ever-increasing use of technology to be reactionary, baffled, judgmental and overall hugely annoying (not to mention boring). Sure, maybe I’m not looking people in the eye on the subway anymore, but that’s because I’m scrolling through chapters of Kierkegaardian philosophy. Or maybe I’m just playing Angry Birds. The point is, the internet is an incredible invention and it’s everyone’s own damn business how, when and how much they decide to use it.
What’s true is that “we spend a lot more time on this stuff than we did in the past, and we spend a lot more time on it than we realize,” according to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction. People like Pang like to whip out “sobering” data, citing just how much time we’re “wasting” from 15-minute activities as they pile up daily, stretching into years of accumulated time. I happen to know that we waste half our lives as humans asleep, and that all sorts of depressing numbers can my tossed in my face regarding the minutes I spend doing everyday, mundane things. The thing is, I’m just not interested in them. I’d rather catch up on the day’s news, which I usually pull from my Twitter feed.
Anyhow, back to my technology-free day: it was lovely. Since I am a secure and confident person I felt no reservations about sleeping late, hopping on the subway, and wandering around the Cloisters, completely alone, for a couple of hours without itching for text messages. After the museum, I wandered through the gardens and parks, chatting up joggers and petting dogs and walking quickly to avoid being alone on a path with two male strangers close behind me. I picked a rose for my boyfriend and smoked a few cigarettes and wrote in my journal.
Drawbacks: 1) I love my journal, but it is cumbersome and sometimes I write down ideas in the Notes app on my iPhone because it’s easier. 2) I really wanted to take a picture of a soggy clump of bananas I found on the ground, because they somehow reminded me of my friend Ari and I wanted to text him about it. 3) I completely lost track of time and ended up coming home to a worried phone call or two from my mother once I was able to charge my phone again, but this isn’t a surprise. She gets antsy if I go for too long without tweeting.
Conclusion: technology is an amazing weapon in the hands of self-actualized, fully individualistic people. It should be kept at a distance from impressionable, underdeveloped brains (pre-teens, I’m taking to you) and introduced to old people as quickly and effectively as possible. Old people on social media are unequivocally the best.