The last time I was away from my cell phone or computer for more than an hour was about four years ago. Let me emphasize that: four years ago. That means that I have not been separated from technology for over 1400 days. Sure, when I take an exam or when I am at an event, I put my phone in my bag, but it is still within my reach. When you think about it, that was a lot of time I could have spent exploring the world, enjoying the weather, or just sitting in silence. But no, ever since I got my first computer and phone, I have chosen to spend my free time scrolling, clicking, and typing away in a virtual world that may disappear in a blink of an eye. I have invested my life in maintaining my social media, creating an online presence, and communicating with my friends and family primarily through technology instead of face-to-face interaction. So I decided to challenge this habit of mine and go one day without technology. Here's how it went, and this is what I learned:
That morning, I woke up (without my phone's alarm) and immediately turned it off. I got up, grabbed a book, went downstairs, and ate breakfast while I read. Not once did I think about my phone or computer. This seemed pretty easy.
I had a doctor's appointment at 11:30, so I went upstairs to take a shower and get ready. I always have music playing when I am getting ready and it felt odd not having it on. It makes the boring and tedious task of getting ready so much more fun. But I persevered and kept my phone away from me.
Again, on the 30 minute drive to my doctor's office, I really missed having music on. I never realized how much I listen to music. It was nice to sit in silence, however, because it gave me a chance to reflect on how I actually spent my summer.
After my appointment, I went to Tropical Smoothie to get my favorite meal. I took my lunch over to the local park and sat by the water. As I ate, I watched the calm river for any signs of wildlife. Because my nose wasn't buried in my phone, I managed to see some cool things. I saw a school of 30 fish or so jump out of the water at the same time, and a heron landed about 40 feet away from me to scan the water for fish. On my journey both to and from the water, every single person looked me in the eye and said "hello" to me. I usually have my headphones in and no one acknowledges me. I found that very interesting.
At this point, I still had not looked at my phone once. Honestly, I really wasn't having the desire I thought I would have to check my email or texts. I made the 30 minute drive home (still without music) and plopped on my bed to figure out something to do. I began to get very bored and antsy. I started to actually desire real human contact so that I wouldn't be alone. I wasn't craving communication through the Internet, but physical interaction, and for those who know me well, that is something very rare and odd for this introvert.
By 7:00, I ended up caving in because I was facing some serious #FOMO (fear of missing out). Even though I wasn't able to go the whole day, I still went about 12 hours without technology. I learned that I don't need my phone to entertain me and that nothing can replace face-to-face interaction. I also realized that I need to start venturing out more and not hiding behind the walls of my home, because the world is such a beautiful and fascinating place. I considered bringing my camera along to document the things I witnessed, but decided against it. Our generation is too caught up in instant gratification and approval from their peers through retweets, likes, and shares. These things are short-lived and fleeting.
I always thought that technology gave me happiness, but that is far from the truth. It is artificial and temporary happiness. The simplest of things that day made me happy: the people saying "hello" to me, my hummus veggie wrap from TroSmo, and the heron and those fish. These things are real and alive. Don't invest your life into something that is artificial and temporary.
My challenge to you: try it. Go a whole day without your laptop or phone. You might be surprised what it can do for you.