My tech free weekend

As part social experiment, part research for this piece, and partly to test the gravity of my addiction, I went technology-free: no cell phone, IPAD, or computer for TWO whole days. 

The day is Tuesday, December 31st, 2019. It’s New Year’s Eve. On this day people all across the globe are setting resolutions for the New Year. Some are trying to lose weight, some are trying to give up bad habits, and others are just trying to get more sleep. 

My resolution? 

Use less technology.

I know, I know.  Cliche. It sounds like the typical resolution: starts out as a good idea and then fades quickly.  

But this time, something really may come of a New Year’s resolution. 

Fast forward five days to Sunday, January 5th. I get an incredibly inspiring notification on my phone that suddenly changes things for me, finally. 

The notification reads—  “Your screen time is up 38% from last week for an average of 8 hours and 42 minutes per day.” 

8 hours, and 42 minutes.  8 hours. And 42 minutes. Whoa.  I’m spending nearly nine hours a day on my technology!

In the past, I’ve done pretty well with New Year’s resolutions. I’ve eaten healthier, worked out more, improved in school, tried to become a happier person. So why would using less technology be an issue for me? Well that’s pretty obvious: I’m addicted to technology, like everyone else.

As a consequence of this, and that pretty disturbing notification, I decided to really try to do something about it.  As part social experiment, part research for this piece, and partly to test the gravity of my addiction, I went technology-free: no cell phone, IPAD, or computer for TWO whole days. 

That’s right: nothing crazy.  I was afraid a week was too much, and I thought two days would be a good starter.  

(I do have to admit that even for just two days tech-free, I had to use my cell phone a very little bit to communicate plans. There are some things you just can’t avoid these days.) 

What I found, at this end of this, was really moving for me.  I constructed a timeline to show you all how my TRYING two day ordeal played out.

Saturday 

9 am- I woke up and stared blankly at the fan. I wanted so badly to check my phone. What happened in those eight hours I was asleep?  Did North Korea attack us? Did the Orlando Magic win? Did Alexander Sket post a new Instagram photo? 

9:15 am- I proceeded to go downstairs to talk to my family and found them lost in their phones. Seeing them on their technology made me want my own even more. The sad reality when trying to give up technology is— technology is everywhere. 

9:30 am- The strangest thing happened. Wait for it… I read a book. With nothing else in particular to do, I grabbed a giant book on archaeology that my grandma got me two Christmas’ ago from the coffee table. It weighed a good twenty pounds. It had remained on the coffee table untouched for two years. I read the book for 45 minutes and enjoyed it, and it prompted me to wonder: how many other gifts have I left untouched because they aren’t as “entertaining” as my phone?

10:15 am- I take a music-free shower. Now, that didn’t stop me from singing, but I will admit, I definitely sound better with some background music.

10:30 am- Car ride to school while listening to the radio. I missed my Apple playlist, but I got to listen to a wider variety of music than I normally would.

11 am- I went to the Middle School basketball tournament at Saint Stephen’s. Unable to use my phone, I tried to find my friend among the large crowd. Because I couldn’t text, I resorted to waving, hoping she’d wave back and I’d find her. I got some weird looks, but eventually I found her. Is that what people had to do before cell phones? 

12:30 pm- I ate a quick lunch, then headed out to my family’s ranch in Myakka to spend the day out in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the world. 

2 pm- At the ranch I rode four-wheelers, hiked, and relaxed. Before arriving at the ranch I missed my technology way too much. I kept touching my pocket hoping to feel my phone. However, once I was at the ranch that desire diminished. I was genuinely present and having a great time. 

6 pm- I watched an incredible sunset over the Myakka cow pastures without taking a single picture for my Snapchat. I hope no one is significantly worse off not having seen my Snap of the sunset. 

7 pm- I look up at the incredible full moon and the constellations that line the sky. I have not once, during my five hours at the ranch, wished I had my phone.

Author’s note: Once, I was busy and away from everyone on technology I no longer missed it. I believe my addiction is very much one of convenience. I am using my technology because I have it and I am bored.  The same as everyone else.

8 pm- I get in the car and leave the ranch to go to dinner. On the drive, I began to miss my phone, I wanted to see what my friends and family were up to. It felt like I needed to check-in. 

8:30 pm- After I entered the restaurant I went to the bathroom, I so badly wanted to check my phone. I felt like a recovering smoker sneaking out to have a cigarette. I resisted the urge though and returned to the table.

8:35 pm- Back at the dinner table I sat down to converse with my friend. She had also tried to limit her phone use, which  helped me. With the lack of technology, we were able to have an amazing conversation that probably never would have happened had we been on our phones. Like any addicted teens, though, we began to miss our devices. So, in order to fill the void, we had the brilliant idea to ask for kids menus to color on. We then battled fiercely in Tic Tac Toe.

10 pm- I went to bed. I did not stay up playing on my phone. I had a hard time falling asleep. I felt like I needed to see what was going on in the world. Eventually, I got to bed. I think that with more time away from my phone the feeling that I was missing something would go away. 

Author’s note: I really enjoyed my day without a cellphone. I struggled at times, but overall I did not miss my devices too badly. I believe I had a better day without my phone than I would have with my phone, and I wonder: how much am I missing out on without that iPhone X?  Would all my days be better? And what should I do about it? 

Sunday 

10 am- I woke up feeling refreshed and had a cup of coffee with my parents. I had a really good night of sleep. I wonder if the sleep would continue to be this good, as I became more accustomed to phone-less sleep? 

10:30 am- I got in the hot tub. I usually get in the hot tub with my phone and have to contort my body awkwardly to play on it. I didn’t this time, and it was honestly more relaxing. Instead, I played one of my favorite childhood games where I put my head underwater and counted how long I could hold my breath. I don’t know why I enjoy this stupid game. I guess we’ll do anything when we don’t have our phones to stimulate us.

11 am- I take a shower. My vocals are improving. 

11:15 am- I play with my dog. I note how happy my dog is. My dog never needs technology.  All she needs is people to love and play with. 

11:45 am- I go to the bathroom. What am I supposed to do on the toilet without my phone? Turns out I have 38 tiles on my wall. I never would’ve known that. 

12 pm- I watch the movie Footloose with my family. (Originally, I was going to not watch television but I don’t feel addicted to television, so I didn’t think it was applicable)

2 pm- We finish the movie and then talk about it as a family rather than immediately picking up my cell phone. I begin to see little differences in life with and without a phone. 

2:30 pm- We go as a family to walk my dog. I usually have my phone on the walk and don’t get as much out of the experience. Walking my dog takes up less than 1% of my day, but it’s another part of my day I am just wasting by being on my device. 

3 pm- Head home from the walk. I race my dog and win. Big dub!

3:15 pm- Watch the Kansas City Chiefs football game. I did not have my cell phone next to me during the game and couldn’t check my fantasy team, couldn’t scroll through Instagram, couldn’t Snapchat, couldn’t read hilarious tweets, and honestly watching the game was better this way. I am usually too distracted to even appreciate a game I love watching. 

Author’s note: These little experiences, walking my dog, talking as a family about a movie, and even watching football are all better without a device— Our cell phones are evils.

5:15 pm- A horrible thought crosses my mind and I try to erase it, but it is stuck there… I need to start my homework. This happens every Sunday at 5 pm.  Usually my strategy to get the thought out of my mind is to watch Tik Tok or read funny tweets. It’s a foolproof strategy, honestly. Today, though, I was stuck. I was forced to do my homework. This was probably the most traumatizing experience of my two days without a phone. 

7 pm- Dinner with my family. We engaged in technology-free conversation and enjoyed each other’s company, as we should.

10 pm- Went to bed excited to wake up in the morning and play on my phone… After all, I’m an addicted teen. 

Afternote- Technology is a beautiful thing. It has connected a divided world (or has it divided a connected world?) and opened our eyes to so much more besides what’s right in front of us. 

Unfortunately, in the process, we have lost sight of the stuff around us. The small things don’t mean as much to us when we have a device that can show us the entire world in an instant. 

But, there is so much beauty in the little things in life, and we must never lose sight of them.

So, if you’re thinking about a resolution, or just a weekend, consider giving tech a rest. You will be glad you did. 

It’s been two weeks now since I gave up my device for two days. Last week, I spent 3 hours and 48 minutes a day on my technology. 

So, I’m still a work in progress.  But hey, it’s an improvement.

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