Going tech free for a full 24 hours brought several things to light that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed, most of which revolved around the primary and most ceremonial aspect of my technology use – my cell phone.
The first is that I could identify with people who say their phone is like an appendage. It certainly is for me. I could not shake the feeling that I was missing something, some ghostly limb that flinched and itched but was impossible to scratch. For the first few hours, this awareness was a mix of relief and vulnerability. The relief stemmed from a place of habitual baseline anxiety, where I worry about butt dialing, texting back, and generally being available to people. Miraculously, this undercurrent of responsibility I did not even know was a constant had vanished, effecting a series of random giant exhales that initial hour. It was also reminiscent of mindfulness practices I’ve attempted in the past. I felt uncannily present, aware, grounded in the here and now. Strangely, this generated in me a sort of “check point” for things I had fasted from or done as mindfulness exercises in the past. For example, because I’ve previously done a mirror fast (where one abstains from looking in mirrors in order to focus less on outward appearance) or junk food fasts, I found my internal voice halting me – wait, am I allowed to do this? before glancing in the mirror or indulging. To my own wonder and amusement, this mental gate keeper ensured I was kept in check for the duration of my abstinence from technology.
On the flip side, not having my phone also caused me to feel very exposed. I knew that if I forgot my keys, got locked out of my building, or had any kind of emergency, it would take me longer to find help. These thoughts were not at all comforting and I was exceedingly grateful that my cohort planned several meeting places in order to ensure that one could seek out others should they choose or need to do so at anytime. This vulnerability was coupled with a sense of potentially profound loneliness which thrust me towards social situations I normally would not have sought out. As it turns out, my introvertedness is often simply a need to spend time with people who are not physically available. I regularly seek out time alone with my phone or other technological devices which connect me to those who love and know me best. The idea of sitting at home without any way of contacting anyone sounded atrocious, especially at night, and so I socialized with those physically near me until I was literally ready to fall asleep. While this was of comfort, spending time with people who I am not as close to as my family or best friends back home left me feeling rather sad and I was on the verge of tears at one point, missing not so much the appendage of my phone, but my usual community of support and love. Not that I am always in touch with them, but typically I talk to them on Thursdays, at the end of the week, which is when this tech free experiment commenced.
By the next day, my relief, sadness, and vulnerability had all turned to annoyance. I had a running list in my head of things to check by the time I could use my phone again: work email, texts I hadn’t received a response from, a list of things I needed from Walmart (partially already written on my phone). Most of all, I missed music, something I listen to almost constantly in the background of my everyday activities. I went for a run with a friend, which offered some reprieve to my now sorely missed appendage(s), as almost nothing about running was different sans technology. I also began to write in depth about this experience, which I absolutely loved. As an avid writer, I journal every week and often find it easiest to express my thoughts in some kind of text. Rarely is this without the use of technology, but writing with pen and paper felt like the familiar escape I craved and fulfilled me. It was by far the best part of this experience.
Actually, I take that back. While that was the best part of my individual experience, doing this as a group with my amazing cohort members was the icing on the cake. It enriched our relationships, bonded us, made me feel connected when I otherwise would have felt so alone, and really showed me how much we are in this together, not just with this assignment, but in every assignment, as a working whole.