I use to scoff at all the clickbait articles warning against the dangers of social media. Anyone above the age of 30 seemed to think social media was the worst thing to happen to conversation. But I disagreed. I personally loved social media and the way it allowed me to connect with my friends instantaneously. I didn’t see the value in waiting to talk to someone or share an idea when I could text my best friends at that very moment. I loved the benefit of speaking to my friends who lived internationally, and being able to connect with them despite the difference in time zones. Then came the summer of 2016.
Excuse my drama, but it suited my perspective at the time. My smartphone was dead, I was without a computer, and I was stuck in one of those situations where I had no means of communication for the summer other than my primitive pay-as-you-go number that I got access to later. My phone didn’t even have texting, my favorite method of giving instantaneous updates and sharing thoughts on the everyday happenings of my life. It was then that I was forced into changing the way that I socialized. What I didn’t expect, was that it also changed the way that my circle of friends had to interact with me.
They could no longer message me at the click of a button. I was no longer accessible 24/7 to the requests of my family. It was interesting how at that point even my flakiest friends had realized that when we set a time and place to meet up, there was no way to update me with a change of schedule. There were no more, “I’m running 30 minutes late” notifications. We met up in places like bookstores where I could bide my time more while I waited.
I read a lot more. No more phone entertainment or even laptop entertainment at my house. I read more that summer than I could ever remember reading before. Television was a treat, for the rare occasions when friends got together for a movie night. I became comfortable without background noise.
I had always grown up hearing people speak about the dangers of technology. And it’s certainly something that I emphasize at my work. I work at a nature preschool, where technology is not allowed at school because children are losing the skill to interact with their natural environment. It is so easy to give a kid an iPad or hours of television time instead of challenging them to find other ways to occupy themselves that means stepping away from a screen. I found myself being confronted with the same challenge my preschoolers face at 20 years old. Along with my growing appetite for literature, I also engaged in more activities outside of my comfort zone. This included running, and taking boxing classes over the summer. I believe that without the technological distraction, there was a natural incentive to spend more time out of the house.
When I had the compulsion to explore an idea, I had to find different ways, not just going on my phone to text. I found myself talking to others on the bus more often. Little kids noticed me because I was the one person in the train not stuck in a device, brightening up my morning commutes. I felt more aware of what was happening around me. I appreciated more when I let myself enjoy life as it was happening. That was the more enlightening part of being technology free.
Then, when I didn’t have people around to share thoughts with, I was writing. I learned not to leave the house without a notebook. I sometimes got weird gazes from other people on the bus since it is kind of odd to be writing on public transportation. The process is about the same whether you write on your phone or in a book, but to me it felt more tangible. It was also a different writing experience since there were no distractions.
And now, it’s 2017, and of course I did not give up on technology entirely. These days, I still use my devices; I know that on my phone, there are always articles I could be reading and people I could be talking to. These things are still important to me. I still enjoy communicating online, and I love keeping in touch with friends. But it’s also a pleasure to get out of my own technological routines now and then; to step away from the screens, and to be present with what is around me. It’s something that everyone should do.