Digital cold turkey
1 April 2005 | 0
My reputation as a bit of a gadget freak is legendary among my friends and family members, who love to see the latest toy I’ve got my hands on. I am the proud owner of not one but two mobile phones and I have an addiction to text that should have its own 12-step programme.
However, I never really thought I had much more of a dependence than the next girl. When the idea to forsake all things digital for a week raised its ugly head, I was quick to laugh it off as a piece of cake.
That particular day, I’d already had several run-ins with my PC, the final one of which resulted in a near-death experience for the machine. So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly feeling technology friendly – something that may have swayed my decision a little.
It slowly dawned on me that no technology meant no mobile phone and no more texting. MP3 player confiscated, Minidisc consigned to the back of the drawer. No DVD player and no TV either (it’s digital as well!).
So how hard is it to forsake digital technology for a week?
It starts off easily enough. Saturday morning is usually spent recovering from the night before, so I usually don’t get up and running until about one o’clock in the day. Of course, my first instinct is to switch on the TV for some mind-numbing Saturday morning children’s TV, but given the technology ban, I have to content myself with reading the paper instead. How educational.
Once I’m up and about, it quickly begins to sink in what I’ve agreed to. No TV, no CD player, no DVD player, games consoles… I’m not sure if I’ll last the week. All my usual entertainment has been cut off.
In an attempt to get myself fit, I’ve recently taken up running. However, without my trusty MP3 player or Minidisc to keep me occupied, it’s just dull. I fished out my old Sony Walkman – it’s not digital, it has an analogue radio and a tape deck, so technically, I’m not breaking the rules. The only thing is, it’s been a couple of years since I actually put any recent music onto cassette. It’s not pretty. I quickly realise how awful my taste in music was five years ago.
This is going to be the real test of this week – my first day in work. Not only do I oversleep (the mobile doubles as my alarm clock), but I have to steer clear of my computer, so there’ll be no Internet access and no e-mail. It’s an odd feeling.
Once in the office, I’m handed my new working tools – a pen and notebook. I try to contain my excitement and smile in gratitude. I think it comes across as more of a grimace.
After a day of scribbling like a lunatic on an A4 notepad, I’m ready for a little vegging time. Something mindless, effortless and guaranteed to use as little energy as possible. I flop onto the sofa and automatically go to pick up the TV remote control before I realise I’m not really supposed to be watching TV. But no one would know… A sneaky glance over my shoulder to see if anyone is watching me and I decide five minutes couldn’t hurt. Or ten. As I’m about to switch on the TV, my flatmate appears in the door, with some suspiciously familiar looking batteries in her hand.
‘Just in case you weakened,’ she says, laughing with barely disguised satisfaction. I think she’s enjoying this.
I read instead.
Day Four: The halfway point
The worst place to have a tech ban is in the offices of a technology magazine. Every day, some new review stock comes in – usually I’m one of the first to pore over the new toys that deluge the office. These days, I have to keep my hands off. It’s like being the only person who doesn’t get a present on Christmas Day. I sulk for a few minutes. On the upside of things, I’m looking very busy these days. All that scribbling on a notepad is making me look like quite the industrious worker. However, all is not as it seems. I’ve recently discovered that my handwriting is so atrocious, I can’t even read it, so I’m having to do things twice. I dread to think of the amount of notes I’ll have to type up when this week is over.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, when I come home, I find my flatmates have decided to stage their very own intervention. My room has been stripped of every banned device and my entire CD collection has been removed. I promptly give up hope of ever seeing my things again.
Having had no access to my mobile phone or e-mail for days, I feel strangely cut off. My friends are starting to think I’ve dropped off the face of the earth.
On the positive side, there are a couple of people I could quite easily avoid for a while. At least now, I have an excuse.
Paranoia sets in. I think technology is taunting me. Every where I look, people are using the very things I’m banned from touching. PDAs in the café, CD walkmans in the park. Mobile phones are everywhere!!! I comfort myself with the thought of the amount of money I’m saving on my phone bill.
Day Seven: The Final Day
Having come this far, I’m determined to get through the day without wavering once. I get up early with my trusty Walkman and the single REM tape I unearthed out of the mound of embarrassing music choices that only a teenager can make.
I’ve caught up on a lot of reading over the past week (what else has there been to do) and not having the mobile phone has made sure that I actually spoke to people in person rather than texting them.
I make lots of new resolutions to become less dependent on my digital devices. Will they last a week?
At the strike of 12.00
Purposely, I stay up until midnight so I can catch some of the late night re-runs on TV, and then it took another three days to locate every last CD, minidisc and video game that was ‘liberated’ from my room. Over the week, I managed to miss an invite to lunch and a birthday party for an acquaintance. Surprisingly enough, though, the world didn’t stop turning. My e-mail inbox may have almost crashed from the amount of spam and unread messages, but a few hours sorted the problem. Any friends who thought I was screening their calls/e-mail/text messages have been placated.
So, what happens when you give up digital technology? Not much. You only learn how dependent you are on it when it’s taken away. At least I know now it can be done, but do I want to do it again? Not a chance!