When I was in college, one of my psychology classes required a “tech fast,” which entailed giving up all digitally-powered devices for at least 24 hours.
My “tech fast” greatly enhanced my productivity, eased my anxiety, and provided me a sense of complete serenity in a typically chaotic world. Ever since my successful collegiate “tech fast,” I have become increasingly tempted to pull myself away from technology, but my role as a digital magazine editor has made reducing my technological consumption (along with the feelings of anxiety and insecurity that frequently accompany it) both highly impractical and nearly impossible.
One morning, I awoke and discovered that my phone had met the gravest possible fate — the dreaded “1% battery” notification.
Naturally, I rushed to plug it in, assuming that in a few minutes, I could resume scrolling through the seemingly endless stream of graduation shots, job offers, engagements, and marriages on social media.
15 minutes later, I felt flummoxed when I was still staring at a pitch-black screen, impatiently awaiting the moment that my phone would finally turn on. I was completely unaware that my area was in the midst of a maintenance-related power outage, and the moment I heard, I immediately felt anxious at the prospect of not having social media close at hand.
I wondered what in the world I could possibly do with my time prior to work, considering that I had no power, no phone, no laptop, and no social media. It was then that I discovered the sheer extent to which technology dictates my life. Not only did I feel my heart racing at the mere thought of my inability to immediately respond to messages, but I also discovered that while it is significantly more difficult to waste time without technology, it is even harder to be productive.
I couldn’t compare myself to (and constantly fall short of) the seemingly flawless women with the slim, toned bodies and flat abs that permeate my Instagram feed, nor could I congratulate my friends on their successes or check to see if they needed a shoulder to cry on. I couldn’t write, pitch, or follow up with editors, nor could I touch up my edits on other writers’ articles.
Without technology, I felt completely lost.
As I resigned myself to my inability to access technology, I discovered a powerful sense of serenity in its absence. I could no longer hear my phone’s constant pinging and feel the compulsive need to respond immediately. I became detached from my stressors, my neuroses, and my problems. In a world of constant chaos, I solely found myself awash in a tranquil, unparalleled sense of calm.
Beneath my inner peace, however, lie a dormant restlessness threatening to bubble over. Although I was content with my lack of access to technology, I felt a pervasive, compelling need to do something, absolutely anything to soothe my addled mind. I frantically scanned my bedroom for something to do and spotted a dusty Constitutional Law textbook and several of my old journals sprawled across the floor. Although I briefly considered ensconcing myself in Marbury v. Madison, I ultimately decided my journals would be a far less snooze-inducing option, and I began reading.
I soon became tired of rehashing the sophomoric ranting and constant victimization mindset that was a staple of my college experience, and I desperately searched for activities besides reading my cringe-inducing, slightly hackneyed journals. Instead, I drifted off to sleep, spending the hours before I was due to arrive at work adrift in a peaceful slumber. Had I known I would eventually end up asleep, I would have cracked open the Con Law textbook in lieu of my college journals in order to expedite the process!
My completely accidental “tech fast” revealed the extent to which our productivity is contingent on our use of technology.
Technological advances, particularly social media, may limit our productivity, but their absence has a striking effect on our ability to complete our daily tasks, as well. Technology, from word processing programs to email to text messaging, is so ingrained in our society that without it, we have nowhere to direct the powerful sense of focus that our technology-free environment may provide. Without technology, we have virtually no way to work, to conduct business, to market products, and to plan events, which leaves us stranded in our dependence. We cannot end our complete reliance on technology until we collectively dismantle the pervasive societal belief that technological advances are the primary indication of a forward-thinking, modern society.
Technology is so deeply entrenched in the fabric of our global society that it is nearly impossible to completely remove, but reducing the detrimental effects of technology in your own life can be an eye-opening way to examine the extent to which technology controls your actions, your thoughts, and your decisions — and to liberate yourself from its powerful grasp.
Delete your social media, silence your notifications, and turn off your phone, and you will feel at peace.
Without technology, you will no longer experience the perfectionism-induced anxiety, the feelings of inadequacy over not living an “ideal” life, and the consuming pressure to constantly outshine your peers. Once you choose to limit your use of technology, you will no longer be confined to the relentless cycle of comparison, self-loathing, and overcompensation.
Release technology’s powerful grasp on your life, and you will finally be free.
Previously published on Project Wednesday.