I had a 12-hour technology detox, here is how it went

by Joe Jean | on September 15, 2015 | tech communication

On September 13th 2015, from 12:00pm to 12:00am I was on a technology detox , i.e. I was not allowed to use any electronic communication devices. The following is an account of how I spent those twelve hours.

Before starting my 12-hour technology detox, I had to warn my friends and family about it. I felt the need to do so because I usually reply quickly to emails and instant messages except when I’m traveling. And I did not want anyone to start panicking when, suddenly, I become unreachable for 12 straight hours.

I also selected a couple of things to read. One of them is a book by Viktor Frankl called “Man’s search for meaning”. In addition to that I printed out the articles “A template engine” and “Git from the bottom Up” . I figured if I’m not gonna have access to my technology devices for 12 hours I’d better have an alternative. And reading physical copies of books and articles was one of those alternatives.

With this preparation out of the way, I was ready to start the journey. At 11:55am I turned off my laptop and my phone and stored them away. At 12:00pm I headed to the dining hall where I was supposed to eat lunch with a friend a little later.

While waiting in the dining hall, since I did not have my phone to play with, I started reading Viktor’s book. A couple of pages into the book, I read “A man could get used to anything”. I then paused and thought “man, I have so gotten used to being always connected through my devices. Would it be possible to get used to living without this constant connection to information?”. Then I went back to my reading.

At around 12:45pm, my friend showed up (by the way, I could still tell the exact timing of things because I was wearing a nice analog watch). We grabbed food, started eating and then ‘bam’, he received a notification on his phone. He naturally pulled his phone, checked the message and placed it back on the table. During the short time this was happening, the urge to also check my phone too suddenly came to me. I was thinking that I may have a new email or a new WhatsApp message from one of my friends. But I couldn’t do it because my phone was away :). This made me aware of the fact that usually I would be constantly checking my phone while eating with a group of friends.

After eating lunch, I continued reading the book. Then I went back to my room to take a nap.

I woke up at 3:10pm and started documenting the experience. Well, this is the first time in in about four years that I have to write that much on paper. One thing I notice is that even though I’m using a pencil I tend to erase less than I would hit backspace when I’m typing on on my computer. And I think that’s a great thing.

At 6:45, I got back to my room after eating dinner. Before going to dinner, I had been quiet productive. I did the reading for my statistics class and I talked and interacted with people way more than I would if I had access to my phone and my computer. But every once in a while the urge to check my email or Hacker News or Reddit would come to me and then disappear after a few minutes. Sometimes I would unconsciously put my hands in my pocket trying to pull my phone out thinking that it is there as usual.

Between 6:45 and midnight, I did some more reading, went for a walk, started my homework and engaged in some interesting conversations with other students.

Then at midnight, I turned on my phone and my computer. I checked my email and found out that I had missed a 3-hour on-campus work assignment. This happened because I did not have my phone with me to remind me of it. Fortunately my supervisor was really understanding so I did not get a blame letter or something. And I think this revealed how dependent my everyday life is on technology. I thought about how I would not have missed my work assignment if I had a printed version of my calendar on my wall.

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