IS “TAKING A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY” GOOD OR BAD?

The internet is full of articles about how great it is to not be on the internet. Or engage with technology whatsoever. There are pretty common moves like deleting Twitter, to taking a week off Facebook (a week in which solved every problem in their life) to more extreme moves like moving to a upcycled cloth cabin in the woods and growing Goat Broccoli and communicating via carrier pigeon. One can find many essays, articles, and memoir about any and all types of “unplugging.”

But is it really all that? Are these claims true? Or merely self-congratulatory exercises? To investigate, I fell asleep on a bus and broke my phone. The ensuing week has revealed a few things about unplugging that I found fascinating.

yay!

TAKING A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY IS GOOD

I found that, without the ability to text or search the internet on my phone, I am more engaged in the moment. It’s entry level stuff, but experiencing that engagement is different than theorizing about it. I am more focused at work.  I talk to other people sitting at the bar with me instead of looking up AP Bio memes to use in future HYM articles. I look my friends in the eyes when they sat across from me at dinner. I use public transit for transportation, people watching, and resting my brain before a shift.

boo!

TAKING A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY IS BAD

I’ve also noticed that while my phone screen is cracked, I can still (barely) see what’s going on. Like a magic eye crossed with glitch art, texts, Facebook notifications, tumblr notifications, snapchat notifications, Gmail notifications, all pop up, with no way to respond. My boss messages me a question about a beer special and I’m all but “well, I guess I’ll tell him when I get there.”

When I was five minutes late for a shift, I could not text my co worker to let them know that I was on my way. Even with my poor little phone put away, I could still feel the buzzings of notification, and this triggered all the panic buttons in my brain. My phone had an evil grin, knowing what it was doing to my peace of mind.

yay!

TAKING A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY IS GOOD

Still, given that I just personified my phone in writing, the fact that I could look, but not touch was probably okay. The first couple days were incredibly stressful. Later though, I found myself sort of. . . not caring? For the most part. It wasn’t quite the liberated bliss described on so many websites. More like a technological resignation: “Welp. This is what it is now.”

As days went by, my inability to immediately respond to non-urgent situations resulted in a calmness and detachment that allowed me some mental decluttering.

That ability to recognize–and accept– the reality of a situation, without constantly trying to change, upgrade, or improve is a useful one. It’s also something that is harder to achieve when every six months we’re promised a smoother, more immersive experience.

So I’m all good with resigned acceptance as a response mechanism for certain types of daily trials.

boo!

TAKING A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY IS BAD

Plus, despite my ability to turn this situation into gold by mining the depths of the human psyche’s response to it, this was not a planned break. It’s kind of like being on a mountain; it’s great when you’ve got all the gear, right shoes, coat, water, supplies and a map. It’s frustrating-to-terrifying when you just end up there with nothing but thumbs.

Most people who take technological breaks set everything up before hand; they get their schedules set in stone, let all the relevant folks know how to get a hold of them, and can enjoy their relative solitude in uninterrupted bliss.

Most of them don’t do this if they work in constantly fluctuating industries and are “95% sure” they got their necessary shifts covered. I’ve been taking my laptop with me everywhere I go so I can respond to emails and Facebook messages to make the necessary arrangements for the many things I was doing last week and this.

yay!

TAKING A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY IS GOOD

Which is to say I am not on any sort of break whatsoever; I am still acutely aware of the existence of texts, messages and sundry content. Still plugged in, just the plugging is a bit more laborious. It’s just that the most comprehensive and convenient way to access the internet and all my friends and acquaintances is no longer available. It is really goddamn. annoying.

But a planned break– one where I’ve got my responsibilities covered, I can unplug and let the busy hammers on the brain ease off a bit– that sounds great, and I plan on doing that soon.

As soon as I’ve, you know, replaced my phone.


Also published on Medium.