Recently, an application on Facebook analyzed my use of the site and determined that accumulatively all my posts totaled a staggering 50,219 words, a total of which surpasses “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis.
Suck on that, Mr. Lewis!
The funny thing about this achievement — can it really be called that? — emerged from the fact that I’m not the most sociable person of my age.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this regard; in it’s first twenty-years, the Internet provided a voice to many coy misfits. It birthed a medium to vocalize the creative things revolving in their minds, myself included.
Social media provides an empty canvas for self-expression, with Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter acting as the bristles and pastels for this digital landscape.
Under ideal conditions, the Internet is the last frontier untamed by much regulation, where imagination and innovation incubate. But at it’s worst, is a place decorum goes to die on a comments section and time-wasting is now called Angry Birds.
Without a level of self-moderation, these websites nurse abysmal social skills.
Upcoming generations may not know any other way to live, tethered to the technological abstract, their whole existence defined by various digital enterprises.
Yet, I’m equally guilty of laziness as anyone I’ve just named above. On a particularly bad day, procrastination halts schoolwork for hours via “West Wing” clips on YouTube.
I believe a majority of these 50,000 words came from the last four years, starting when I obtained my MacBook and iPod Touch.
Later the iPhone played the role of ultimate provocatrix, seducing me with the freedom of 3G and a 5-megapixel camera.
Yet, for all the mobility it provided, it kick started my natural curiosity into overdrive.
Before when the answer to a useless piece of trivia eluded me, I waited until I returned home or came into contact with a computer.
Now, the answer to the name of the actor who portrayed the titular alien in “My Favorite Martian” was within reach at the snap of a wrist.
Answer: It’s Ray Walston.
Or when I wanted to scribble down a note for later, I needed scrap paper. Now? The notepad app.
Who needs drugs when you own an iPhone?
All these things became detrimental when they stole all my attention, whether it was sifting through a day of content on Tumblr to reblog, or simply losing focus during “Person of Interest.”
I needed to break away.
But how do you unplug for an experiment when the regular school day is a technological minefield?
Spring break seemed the logical time, when deadlines and assignments didn’t linger.
What commitment does this require, though?
Should I excise every digital device? Digital Cameras? Television? Radio? Telephone?
Inevitably, this leads to a conflicted no.
I cannot knowingly be ignorant of the world outside.
So for the sake of simplicity and keeping my sanity, here are some ground rules I laid out for myself (which I reproduced on my nifty yellow legal pad):
—No iPhone or any smartphone use of any kind
—Zero MacBook usage between now and Tuesday morning
- This also includes having people look stuff up for me and/or simply observing usage
—Snapping photos with the DSLR is permissible, as long its purpose serves the experiment
—Limited television viewing
In essence, I am not absolutely deprived, but starved enough of items that have regularly passed the time for the last nine years.
(Note: The following is a polished version of my diary from these three days.)
March 9, 2013
And the withdrawals began.
I awoke at approximately 8 a.m. this morning and unconsciously, in a just-awakening stupor, sauntered over to my desk, hovering over it for a moment.
Only I didn’t go through my usual morning procedure.
Taped across the separate shells containing the hard drive and display, the simple word No. was inked over the masking tape to safeguard against intrusion.
To my credit, I anticipated the mind going on autopilot at some point and mucking up the experiment, although not this early.
The ways of the old guard still infect my mind.
On a regular morning, I would awake and raise the top on my MacBook, followed by turning on my iPhone, and peruse the Internet.
Deprivation from this ritual was an awkward experience. Even before my conversion to Apple products, when I operated a crappy Dell computer, the morning procedure shared similarities.
As such, the night before the experiment was a restless one. I dreaded going unplugged.
Even as I jot these thoughts down, my brain still wants to turn on the iPhone, although this isn’t a weakening of will — it’s conditioning.
During any other day, my brain entertains itself by asking how I will utilize the phone today:
“I need to look up some red suspenders on eBay that’ll go along with my Eleventh Doctor costume for Phoenix Comicon in May.”
“What did Tom Petty mean when he wrote ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’?”
Generally, they are things I probably can die without discovering but still like to know.
Only now I’ve begun to realize how much instant gratification the Internet provides.
For this reason, the conversion of excess to the bare, bare essentials today was the worst. However, the situation wasn’t been entirely dire.
As I deduced, keeping busy proves a great elixir.
I barely noticed when I got my haircut this morning, or later when I read 65 pages of “Diamonds are Forever,” a novel scarcely touched since late November.
Yet, the quieter moments reveal their hand.
Throughout the day, my brain rattled off one thing after the next that could be looked up, the mental spasms of someone struggling to stay afloat without their favorite gadgets.
I am acclimated to capping the night off with surfing the net on my MacBook, but this evening I attempted different things to do with my newfound free time.
I have a feeling finding a new routine over the next two days will be the biggest struggle.
March 10, 2013
Slept more sound last night.
Still in absence of a routine to pass the time. Again, busyness is the watchword.
Earlier in the day, I traveled with my father to the annual Goodguys car show at WestWorld in Scottsdale.
Thank God for their swap meets. And the car show wasn’t half bad, either.
Although, the ride nearly killed me.
Normally, the Retina display of my iPhone engrosses me, but today I looked out the car window, allowing my mind to wander in between interactions with my dad.
The ultimate metaphor of the power (no puns intended) electronics hold over me is akin to an oft-repeated scene from the original “The Manchurian Candidate”:
Whenever someone wishes to hypnotize Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), they repeat the phrase, “Ray, why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?” as a trigger. Then off he goes into that semi-functioning hypnotic state while the Communists agents instruct him on who to kill next.
It’s a lot like that except being brainwashed by the Communist’s part.
For all the enchantment the Internet provides, they pull out all our worst traits — websites like Buzzfeed engage laziness for hours, while social media profiles intensify id and ego.
This criticism comes from someone who loves social media. Remember the 50,000 words worth of posts on Facebook?
That amounts to at least a few hours of my time spent only on those posts.
This void in my daily rituals continues to open almost every time I’m doing nothing. I never realized how much time computers took in my every day until here I stood, almost scratching my head.
What do you do when technology and its many trappings, which constitute much of your day, suddenly vanish?
What did I do before they drew me in completely?
For the first two days of this fast, I’ve attempted to remember those days, but I simply can’t recollect them.
March 11, 2013
Awoke with the rising sun filtered through my navy blue curtain — itself a wonderful feeling and sight to wake up to — and still the first thought was to check updates on my iPhone.
Finished the last 30 pages of “Diamonds are Forever” the night before, something I’m proud of immensely. Even if it was nothing like the movie.
Obviously, a three-day fast isn’t going to reform a well-fortified dependency.
It doesn’t help that my brain operates with unchecked curiosity and sometimes acts impulsively, with the iPhone and other devices enabling this impulse.
If I wanted to know who composed the score for “Clean Slate,” a film earning half my attention now, a pit stop to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) would produce an answer.
Instead of waiting until the end credits like a normal person, I would want an answer now.
Again, I don’t think I’m alone here.
Pure conjecture on my part, but technology is slowly siphoning away human patience.
Remove technology and the results resemble the effects of being submerged in a sensory deprivation tank — if regular stimulation disappears, the person goes somewhat stir crazy.
You lock a person out of any engrained routine and this’ll happen.
Often people refer to this transitional period as a “three day hump,” — detox past these first few days and they’ll be all right.
But if the habit isn’t a commonly perceived addiction, such as alcohol, smoking or any other controlled substance, the transition takes longer.
It’s akin to adapting to a modified environment.
When someone sells their end table. It used to greet them when they passed through the front door, and now their first action is dropping the keys on the now-absent table.
And almost three days in, I still wish I could log on.
Anyway, as this experiment reaches its conclusion, it featured no big revelations other than living without technology in 2013 is damn near impossible.
Everything we do now is predicated on “making our life easier,” whether that be checking the seven-day forecast on the lightrail, staying connected with friends and family, shopping for Christmas presents online, or composing a Word document. They all serve a purpose.
We forget how to function otherwise, even though before we got along fine without it.
Denouement / Coffee & Cigarettes
It was just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday, almost exactly three days since the fast began.
A moan of orgasmic ecstasy escaped from the cackles of my stomach the moment the masking tape peeled off the laptop.
Yet, the honeymoon ended rather quickly.
All the talk in the preceeding days concerning how long it takes to shake deeply engrained habits went out the window almost as quickly as the top went back up on the MacBook.
I didn’t want to spend the next hour becoming reacquainted with it.
I deduce some sort of subconscious mental shift happened while I was in the midst of withdraws. Somehow after three days in the dark, I realized how time consuming and maddening a binge can be.
Now, I no longer feel the urge to spend hours on platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram.
I’ve lost the will to browse through content posts en masse on these respective sites, only scrolling so far before telling myself to move on to more important tasks.
While it complicated my life, the fast generally cut all the crap from my life.
The unplug offered an approach to simplicity, although not entirely free of technology, as an alternative to the excess.
Now, in this experiment’s wake, hopefully I won’t revert back to my old ways.
Reach the writer at email@example.com or via Twitter @TaylorFromPhx