Recently, the New York Times ran an article about trying to break free from over-reliance many of us have with our technology. Inspired by the article, I challenged myself and my 15-year-old son to go technology free for a weekend. The plan was to use our landline and television, but no cellphone, video games or computers.
I originally set our digital detox goal to last 48 hours. It didn’t sound that long at first, but then I realized that my son might need to check homework before school on Monday. So, I immediately lowered the goal to 36 hours.
The hours before we started, we both gorged ourselves on technology in the same way you would overeat before knowing you had to fast for 36 hours. My son was scrolling Instagram and playing NBA YTK up until the deadline while I worked like a maniac to clear my inbox before we began.
Less than 2 hours after we put aside our screens, I had to cheat. It had snowed that morning and I had no way of finding out whether my son’s basketball game was on still on. I had to check the website and found out it was delayed, as there was no other way for us to find out that information.
The cheating continued throughout the day. I needed to make an appointment to get a haircut and I didn’t know the number because it’s stored in my cell phone. I didn’t want my son to go to his basketball game an hour away without his cell phone because I use Life360 to give me peace of mind should there be an emergency. And my son had to use his cell phone to let us know what time to pick him up.
The list of reasons we needed technology went on and on.
We get so much information from our devices and some of it is utterly inconsequential to our lives. My son was upset he didn’t know in real time that Todd Gurley, running back for the Los Angeles Rams, has arthritis. I felt out of touch because I didn’t know about the snow predicted for Monday. But in both cases, it wasn’t information we needed to know immediately.
I had forgotten to turn the volume off on my computer, so every email I received was making a little ping, and I realized the sound made me jump a little with excitement, which was followed by the stress of not knowing who was trying to contact me. Once I shut off the computer volume and my cell phone ringer, I was less antsy.
At one point I glanced at my phone in the drawer and I had over 80 emails, 10 texts and 25 Facebook alerts.
I felt anxious about missing something, but there was nothing that couldn’t wait until the next day.
The Perks of Being Tech Free:
Watching television is more enjoyable without phones or iPads around. We actually understood the plot and didn’t have to rewind because we were fully engaged. We talked to each other rather than texting at commercials.
Meals were also much better without technology. I have a no phones at the table rule anyway, but even the drive to and from the restaurant was better because we were phone free. There was no “phubbing,” a term psychologists have coined for the tendency to snub a person in favor of your phone. We listened, we laughed, we really connected and my husband, son and I all felt very present.
What We Learned Even Though We Failed:
In the end our experiment only lasted 13 hours. We got home from dinner at 9 p.m. and my son really wanted to spend some time playing video games online with his friends. He could have read a book or done a puzzle by himself, but chatting via headset while they play video games is the way he and his friends sometimes hang out together. I didn’t want to cramp his social life.
We failed at our tech-free experiment, but our failure made me realize just how valuable and useful technology is in our lives. Using tech wisely is like eating a balanced diet. We need to eat to be healthy, but we have to make good choices and avoid overindulging to feel our best. By being more conscious consumers of technology, we can develop healthier habits and allow our devices to enhance our lives, rather than overwhelm us.
I don’t think I’ll try to go tech-free again, but I’m making more of an effort to take a break from technology, even if it’s just for a few hours at a time.