I am currently spending a few days at my grandmother’s house in the mountains. While I undeniably think about the family time and the peaceful quiet time I will get there, there usually is another thought flickering in my mind. You see, in that place, I am disconnected from the world. I have to cross the garden all the way to my aunt’s house to get an Internet connection, and the phone network is virtually inexistent. I have to drop my daily habit of spending at least half an hour just wasting time on my phone just before I fall asleep and when I wake up. I cannot just download a movie when I feel bored. I cannot spend hours on social media.
At first, this situation is usually stressing me a lot: how will I manage to work? How will I speak to my boyfriend? How will I know what is going on in my world? I feel like my need to connect with people and things are strong and is an essential part of my life. What is life going to be without the distraction of technology?
But as the days go by, I adapt to the situation, and I eventually find it quite pleasant. I do not feel the rush to check my email inbox every two seconds and to see what has happened on My Facebook newsfeed every five minutes. I still call my boyfriend every day and I manage my work differently, in a more efficient way. Without the distraction of the Internet and its endless possibilities of procrastination, I am more concentrated on what I have to do. I discover the pleasure of reading a book again and I spend some time just soaking up the sun in the garden. I can relax, as I know no beeping sound coming from the iPhone will come to trouble me. We still have a TV in the house, but I barely watch it.
I feel free. I speak more to my family, as none of us is hooked on his phone. I am less isolated. No one is looking at their phone during dinner. I go to sleep earlier and have a better rest. In my “normal” life, I never close my eyes before midnight at the earliest; here I sleep at 10.30. Not because I am bored and have nothing better to do than sleep, but because I can listen to my body more and feel the tiredness when it actually comes – not two or three hours later.
The same effects are visible to the kids. With no iPad and connected games to play on all day, they go outside and play together. They have fun on the swing and marvel at the sight of a mommy cat with its kittens. They enjoy helping with the cooking and happily join us for walks in nature. The inevitable need to fight with them – usually ending up in tears – to get them away from the screen is gone.
Do not get me wrong, as I know I will probably go back to my old habits as soon as I step out of the village. Still, I enjoy having the possibility to come here a couple of times a year and go on a technology detox for a few days. From this experience, I learn that being hooked on the screen of our smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs all-day drives us further away from each other. We are losing the simple pleasure of social interaction, of just being there alone with our thoughts, in the middle of nature. During those few days, if I have something to say to someone not physically too far from me, I just get away from my chair and go talk to them. In my everyday life, I do not even count the times I sent a text to somebody standing in the room next to me because I was just too lazy to go talk to them.
With our current use of technology, we have developed a tendency to become anti-social. We are losing the ability to physically interact with each other. Sometimes, in more extreme ways, we are allowing ourselves some behaviours on the Internet we would never allow in real life. Some people do not hesitate to hide behind false identities, to harm others or just because they do not know how to behave socially and feel like they need a mask to protect themselves. If you are not accountable for your actions, you might feel free for a time, but the truth is that it very often just comes back at you in a way or another at some point.
Yet again, technology is a great thing and I probably could not live without it. To be honest, I would not be able to work without it; what would it be like if I had to handwrite all my texts and send them by post once they are ready? Nevertheless, it seems important to take some time to reconnect, to realise that we are not alone in this world and that the resources available to us outside of the screen are countless and amazing. Taking the time and embracing the moment to re-discover yourself and others might be one of the greatest gifts you could make to yourself nowadays. So just jump for it. Even if it is only for a few hours, be bold enough to disconnect.