On Friday night I decided to make good on an idea that had been circling around in my mind for a few months. Turn off everything and leave it off till sunset the next day.
I grew up with the practice of Sabbath, so this wasn’t completely foreign to me. But I hadn’t practiced in quite a while.
The evolution of my tech addiction started simply enough. First there were desktop computers of course, I loved them and wanted to take them everywhere with me. But they were stuck to my desk and plugged into the wall.
Then came the laptop. An improvement to be sure, but still quite limited. Short battery life. Limited power. And heavy, oh so very heavy. My first laptop was for work and they called it a broad-axe. It was about the size of a giant axe blade of war, and about twice as heavy. At least it didn’t have a giant handle sticking out of the side.
Next came the cell phone. They’d been around for years by the time I got my first. My first cell phone was practical. It made phone calls. It had a rudimentary web browser that was capable of displaying text and was a complete waste of time to use. It was a phone and mobile message taker.
Phones began to evolved.
Laptops got faster and lighter.
Soon phones were full scale web browsers and you could get all your email on them. You never had to be out of touch… From anyone. Always on.
Now our phones are full blown portable person computers, game systems, social communication platforms and … oh yeah, I guess they still make phone calls.
And we have come to feel they are an extension of us. They are part of our lives and we are accessible through every moment of our lives.
I’m still curious what the impact will be on the current generation. They won’t know a time when they aren’t always available, always connected, always on.
I know the impact on me has been powerful and subtle. I don’t even know the full impact. Technology is a fundamental part of my world.
So how would I react to turning everything off?
What would happen if I just went dark for a day?
As challenging as the idea of turning them all off for a day was, I thought it would be good for me.
So Friday night I turned off my iphone, I turned off my ipad, I powered down my laptop, I hid my TV remotes. I took a deep breath, and I went to bed.
The next morning, I told my wife about my plan. She was very hesitant at first, she liked the idea, but the repercussions of being out of contact with her online mother’s community was daunting. I highlighted that this was something I was doing and that she didn’t need to do it. She had a few concerns about her own participation in the experience. After mentally coming to grips with the idea, she decided to join me in my experiment.
As I showered that morning my brain kept popping up things I needed to check on the internet. Things that immediately needed my attention. Then I remembered I wasn’t doing that today.
At one point I realized that in that last 5 minutes there were no less than 4 times I could easily looking back and see I’d been thinking about “checking on” something. So the idea occurred to me that I should keep a tally of how many times I actually thought about my phone. I realized that I could download an app to help me keep track… Then I laughed quietly at my brain and tried to move on.
I was amazed at how challenging this was. I wasn’t used to observing how many impulses I have to check my phone over the course of just a few minutes. All of this turmoil from a simple act made me feel that I should write notes about my experience while it was occurring.
I then lamented that I couldn’t write notes because I didn’t have my computer turned on and I couldn’t use my phone. I thought about turning on the computer, “just for a minute” to write notes, but knew that would break the spirit of my experiment.
During this inner dialog I remembered something, something ancient from my childhood, it was also called “writing” and it involved a pencil and paper. Hooray, problem solved!
As the afternoon wore on, I found the need to check my phone lessen. I did have an undertone of unease to my mental state. I realized that this was coming from a feeling that “Someone, somewhere, must need me.” If only I turned on my phone I would find out.
I kept looking forward to sundown like a man holding his breath under water waiting to surface.
Early afternoon involved a nice nap sitting in my reading chair. Also I pulled out a physical book and did some reading into it’s pages. Two activities that would probably have been interrupted or not have occurred at all had I been “plugged in”.
When sundown did finally come, I enjoyed checking my email and seeing if I’d missed anything that I needed to know. But I was able to approach the experience in a calm fashion as opposed to feeling like a man gasping for air.
Interesting, the internet did not miss me. It didn’t even care that I was gone for 24 hours. In fact all those people that I thought were trying to contact me didn’t even notice I was gone. The only lingering side effects left over from the experience is this story and the calm that it created within me.
No damage done by my day without tech.
Overall I would highly recommend this experiment to everyone.
I was very disturbed by how many tell tale signs of addiction showed up over the course of the day. A computer seems like such simple tool, but it is tapped into more neural pathways than we care to admit.