A couple weeks ago, I saw a story on Dateline, NBC about 4 college-aged women who “gave up” technology for a couple of weeks.
That is, no smartphones or computers. What was interesting and horrifying to me about the story was one, that they basically went through withdrawal for a while without the devices and, two, how absolutely clueless they seemed to be about interacting with people and the world around them without an electronic device.
In one scene, for example, one of the women is going to meet a friend at a restaurant for dinner. The Dateline crew secretly told the friend to go an hour later, thus forcing the woman to wait an extra hour. She practically freaked out because she “didn’t know what to do” without her smartphone. She ended up going to the bar and actually talked to the bartender — good on her for figuring that out — but, I mean, really? There are actual print books, newspapers, and print magazines that you can easily take to a restaurant and read while you’re waiting for someone. I do that quite a bit. But she was having all kinds of anxiety sitting there alone without a device. Like she didn’t even know who she was, really, and needed a device to define that for her.
At the end of the experiment, all four admitted that it was actually nice to not be tethered to their devices, and they found themselves not obsessing over what was happening on social media, and that the pace of their lives had slowed down and they felt more “relaxed.”
Duh. I don’t like being “on call” 24/7. I’m a Gen X-er, and grew up in the 70s and 80s. I know how to access and find information without use of a smartphone or computer, and I also know how to do that with a smartphone and a computer. I don’t talk on the phone or text or whatever the hell when I’m out with friends or at dinner because I consider it rude and when I do have to take a call, I excuse myself and step away and make it quick, so I can get back to what I was doing. Yeah, that’s probably ol’ skool and old fashioned. But addiction to tech has demonstrated some scary things (see here, here, and here), and it’s affecting our brains and how we interact.
It’s creating people who “don’t know what to do with themselves” without it — they’re unable to entertain themselves or engage with the world without it. People who have no idea how to “do” anything like plan a route on a fold-up map, who don’t know how to access information without a device, who have difficulties interacting with people in the real world, and who seem not to know who they are in the real world.
People, unplug. Go camping. Have a game night with your friends. Have coffee with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Read a book. Go to a library or bookstore and browse. Read an actual newspaper. Volunteer somewhere offline, like an animal shelter or a nursing home or museum. Stop allowing your devices to dictate your life and to control your habits. Stop allowing them to define who you are, when who you are online is certainly not who you are, really. And show some manners. Put your devices away when you’re out with friends. Do this, instead.
Anyway, watch the Dateline episode here.
And here’s a little discussion about it on a St. Louis news station, where a newscaster talks about how her guest, one of the women in the episode, navigated life without her devices. Pay attention to that newscaster. She can’t stop messing with her tablet while she’s talking to the young woman who gave up devices for a while, and who’s sitting there device-less trying to be interviewed. Mmm hmmm. Newscaster unclear on the concept.
But also indicative of how prevalent devices have become, and how we’ve basically tied ourselves to them. I find that kind of creepy.
Anyway. Happy reading, happy writing.