I Went Without Technology During Non-Work Hours For A Week, And Here's What Happened
If you're like any of my friends, family members, or coworkers, you may have read this title, shuddered, and wondered why anyone would willingly choose to go a week without technology. As I sat here, preparing to be without my phone for the next seven days, I too was wondering: Why am I doing this? Was it because I wanted to make my life harder? Was it because I enjoy torture? Was it because I momentarily lost my mind and I shouldn't be held accountable for my actions?
Of course, none of those things are the reason. The reason is because I am obsessed with tech products, and I needed a break. Even if I didn't necessarily want one, I needed one, because I fear for the amount of screen-time I have every single day. The idea came to me one night when I was at my boyfriend's house, trying to relax before a particularly busy week. My boyfriend was talking to me, and when he said, "Are you listening?" I realized that I wasn't. I was sitting there, simultaneously watching Broad City on TV, scrolling through Tumblr on my iPad, and checking Instagram on my phone. My watch was beeping, reminding me to stand up. My computer lay at my feet, charging and keeping the bed warm. I was not relaxed. I was buzzing, I was doing a million things, and I was focused on exactly none of them.
It was that moment when I realized that I needed to chill. Of course, I have realized this before. My phone is an extension of my arm, and being without it makes me feel anxious. I am obsessed with Instagram, and I can't go a certain amount of hours without checking it — and when I do, I feel the need to scroll right back to the last picture I ended with, which takes a very long time because I follow a lot of fashion bloggers. I am always on social media. As an editor for a website, I am on the computer, plugged in, 10 hours a day.
I've never thought that my tech dependence was a big deal. My boyfriend and family tease me for the phone stuff, but I've always shrugged it off, defending myself by saying that everyone is this way because it's 2016. Sure, I love to be on all forms of social media, but who doesn't? I do other things besides tech stuff: I exercise, I love being outside, I go to the beach, I am a huge reader, I spend time with friends and family. I am well-rounded, darn it!
Except... maybe I'm not. In the last year, the tech dependence has gotten worse. A few months ago, I noticed that I can't sit through a 20 minute TV show without scrolling through my phone at least three times. I can't fall asleep without looking at Instagram, even if I just looked at it five minutes earlier. I wake up and immediately grab my phone to look at what I missed while I was sleeping. I used to get on the train after work, and relax by reading a book or taking a nap. Now I sit there, staring at my phone like a zombie the entire time. I go out with my friends and I find myself grabbing for my phone, being completely rude. The worst thing of all: I haven't read a book in two months because every time I've thought of doing it, I've found myself on social media.
It is safe to say that tech is taking over my life. So, for a week, I decided to go without tech during non-work hours: no phone, no social media, no laptop, no tablet, no gadgets, no television. I would apply this rule only during non-work hours because I work at a website, and need to be online during the day.
How did I do? Did it make things better or super stressful? Did I collapse from the pressure of not knowing what kind of bikinis Tash and Dev were wearing? Did I have an anxiety attack because I missed Kylie Jenner's latest Snapchat video? You can only find out if you read on!
Day One: Monday
I started on a Monday, because the Sunday before were the Oscars, and I had to stay awake until after midnight watching them. So, it was the perfect day to take a little tech break! The morning was easy — I was working from home, so I slept late and got right to work when I woke up. I called my boyfriend and said, "I forgot to tell you I can't use tech items during non-work hours for a story I'm writing, so you'll have to call my house phone if you need me." He replied with a shocked silence, then a lot of laughing, and said, "You?!?!" with enough disbelief to make me determined to get through this.
Still, I dreaded the real challenge that was coming after work, when I had to put away my phone, computer, tablet, and other gadgets. It was 7 p.m., and I thought to myself, "OK... now what?" I grabbed the latest issue of Glamour, and settled down to read it. This was enjoyable, but I found myself reaching for my phantom phone every few minutes, whether it was because I wanted to take a picture of something I wanted to buy, or because I wanted to check Instagram.
As I waited for my boyfriend to call my house phone, I felt like I had gone back in time to my high school self. My mom was on the phone, and I heard her say she was ignoring the call waiting, and I screamed, "I'm waiting for a call, Mom!" While my dad was on the phone, I found myself feeling nervous about my boyfriend calling and speaking to my dad, despite the fact that I have been with said boyfriend for five years, and they get along quite well. Was I reverting?
The rest of the night was better. My boyfriend came over, and for the first time in a long time, I just sat with him and talked, without the interruption of the television, a computer, or a cell phone. It was nice! And then when he left, I felt confused. Normally before bed, I scroll through social media and watch TV for a few minutes. Too tired to read but not used to ignoring my normal routine, I turned off the lights, sat in bed, and felt lost until I fell asleep much earlier than usual. Which actually... I probably needed.
Day Two: Tuesday
Honestly, it was nice to get ready for work without the distraction of my phone. Things got weird when I got on the train. My normal commute routine goes something like this: go through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and then my email, in that very order. Go through Instagram one more time just in case, then take a nap until I hit Penn Station. I couldn't do any of those things, so... I just went to sleep. Clearly, I was going to be very well rested this week.
Being given tech privileges at work ended up being a huge time suck. I had over 20 text messages to read, lots of emails to reply to, and tons of Instagram pictures to scroll through. I felt like I had missed out on things, like the conversations in my group chats that were dead by that point. I also felt a bit like an addict, manically scrolling through social media to soak up all of the info I hadn't seen the night before. Once I finally finished, I felt kind of drained.
After work, I headed to a spin class and felt very *~*cleansed*~* and happy. I unfortunately had forgotten my book for the train, so I had nothing to do but, once again, fall asleep. I was slightly worried about what I would do all night, but when I got home, my grandparents were over. I sat and talked with them for a few hours, and was once again reminded how pleasant interactions with loved ones are when you're looking at their faces and not a tiny screen. It was nice! Highly recommend.
My boyfriend and I once again got a lot of face time, but once he had fallen asleep, I felt slightly confused. I'm so used to mindlessly watching TV before bed that I almost went to put on Jane The Virgin until I realized I couldn't. So I pulled out my book (The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain, which is wonderful), and read for about 45 minutes until I was so tired I had to fall asleep — earlier than normal, yet again. By the end of the night, I realized I didn't even miss my phone.
Day Three: Wednesday
Checking my email at work this morning was slightly frustrating: I had missed two important and timely emails. One was for a last-minute interview with a celebrity that I couldn't schedule at that point, and the other was about a work mistake that should have been fixed ASAP. Say what you will about the negative aspects of having your work email available to you 24/7, but sometimes it's necessary and helpful. This was one of those times. It was also an annoying reminder that my job requires me to be plugged in all the time.
But onto the positive stuff! I ended up having such a busy, stressful, and hectic day that I actually couldn't wait to get home and ditch my phone and computer. I was craving the downtime. As soon as I clicked "do not disturb" on my group chats on the train, I felt a rushing sense of relief. I spent the night relaxing by coloring (what can I say, I'm *very* creative), and reading with a cup of tea. It was a welcome break from a stressful day, and I didn't really miss any of the tech stuff at all.
Day Four: Thursday
My morning and work day went like every other day of the week had — I got ready faster, slept more on the train, then spent a decent amount of time catching up on what I had missed on social media the night before. In terms of actual work, I did feel a little behind. Normally, I check my emails throughout all hours of the day and night, so I can reply to everything quickly and get it out of the way. Starting work with 30-plus unread emails definitely set me back a bit. I also freelance when I'm not in my office, and since I obviously hadn't been able to do that, I felt very behind there. So while the lack of technology was, admittedly, relaxing me, part of it was also making me more stressed.
Once I was home, I felt restless and just wanted to be able to use my phone. I had some important texts to send that I never had a chance to get to throughout the day, and I felt frustrated that I couldn't just do it. I spent most of the night reading my book (which, at this point, I was more than halfway finished with) and then hanging out with my boyfriend. Without the lure of social media, I fell asleep early yet again. Nothing new to report here.
Day Five: Friday
I was working from home, which meant the day was pretty easy. I did find myself using my phone less than I would normally use it, and I'm not sure if that's because I was very busy, or if it's because I was adjusting to a life without having it in my hand 24/7. When I checked through Instagram, instead of feeling the need to go through every single image I had missed, I looked at about 10 photos and then got bored. I felt like a new person!
Once work was done, I had made plans with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. We went out to get coffee, and yet again, it was nice to be in a social situation without glancing at my phone every few minutes — I felt much more polite. I even forgot about my no-tech rule for a minute and snapped a picture of our coffee cups before I remembered I wasn't supposed to.
Day Six: Saturday
This was the day I was dreading the most. One entire day without technology?! Every other day of the challenge, I was at least able to use technology eight hours a day. I won't lie — the idea of being without it for 24 hours was making me a little anxious. I decided to freelance for an hour, meaning I had an hour of work where I could use technology. What? It's legit.
After scrolling through social media and chatting with a few friends, I got ready to spend a day without technology, like I was part of the Dark Ages. This is a severely dramatic statement, but I was feeling very helpless at the moment. I went to get a manicure and a pedicure, and I swear, this was the first time I managed to actually relax and shut down during a pedicure. I normally bring a book or magazine with plans to read, then I end up on my phone literally the entire time, barely paying attention to anything else. This time I read an entire issue of Allure, and it was much more enjoyable.
Afterwards, I was finally able to clean and organize my room, something I had been trying to do for, no joke, over a month (I am a messy person, what can I say?). Every time I went into my room to start the process, I ended up either getting distracted by my phone or computer, or TV. This time, I had no excuses. I spent almost the entire day cleaning, and I felt incredibly accomplished at the end. I went to bed feeling pretty darn proud of myself.
Day Seven: Sunday
Sundays are my days to get errands done, meal prep, and relax with my boyfriend, so I knew I wouldn't really miss technology. And while I wish I could say I did a great job on my last day, I didn't. At one point, I caved, and checked my Snapchat stories. At another point during the day, I had to prove a point to my boyfriend and needed to Google something (I'M SORRY. I'm very stubborn).
Lastly, during a trip down to the beach to take a walk, my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a gorgeous fox, and there was no way I wasn't taking a picture of it. I tried, y'all, and I think I did pretty well, but... by Sunday night, most of my resolve was gone.
Honestly, this week was more simple than I thought it would be. Before I started this challenge, the thought of being without social media and my phone for several waking hours every day made me feel like I would be missing a limb (a very important one). I really think I needed this time to *connect* with myself and unplug a little bit. I don't want to sound like every annoying person out there who gives up social media and then decides they are morally superior to the rest of the human race, but being without it, even for just a few hours a day, was a welcome change.
Without my phone, computer, Internet, and television, I was able to do a ton of reading and relaxing. I found myself listening more to the people around me. Coloring, reading, not staring at a tiny screen, and feeling angry at every Facebook friend I have who supports Donald Trump made me feel much less stressed than usual. I even got to a point where I was looking forward to my no-tech time, which I truly did not think would happen. I basically felt free.
But at the end of the day, I couldn't make this a regular thing even if I wanted to. My time of no technology forced me to miss several timely work emails, a few important texts, Kylie Jenner's Snapchat updates, and the conversations surrounding the latest episode of How To Get Away With A Murder. In all seriousness, my job prevents me from being unplugged for such large amounts of time every single day, so this is a habit I can't adopt unless I want to work in a different field (I do not).
However, I would like to set a rule where I have to go an hour or two each night without social media, the Internet in general, and the television. In the last few years, I've spent a lot of time complaining about how I have no downtime to just relax with a good book, or to do things that need to be done (like cleaning my room). This challenge made me realize that I actually do have the time, I've just been wasting it online or in front of the television. If I could totally unplug for at least an hour a day, I could be giving myself more relaxation time that is actually relaxing. So while I'm stoked to get back to my regularly programmed Instagram stalking, I am also excited to be a little less tethered to my phone. Now maybe one day I'll be able to let go for an actual full week.
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Images: Jessica Booth