Whether you are the type to make resolutions or not, we can all agree that some restraint in life makes sense. For many, the voice that disagrees with making new-year resolutions comes from within. Our subconscious asks, “how much sacrifice we talking ‘bout?” or “can I really keep that up this year?”
This new year, I want to restrain from technology just a bit. My goal is to go without my iPhone for a day. This is my only resolution, and I am constructing it so that it’s not easy to disappoint myself. That is, instead of making a resolution that requires me to go without technology altogether for a day, I am choosing a singular device. This way I practice controlling how I use technology, but I do not completely take away its value.
After a year that ended tragically, I figure going a day without my smartphone may seem facile to some and unnecessary to others. Truly, there are more difficult and noble goals to embark on: gun control advocacy, helping sick children, donating to the homeless. There really is no way or reason to minimize this larger context of our conjoined lives. Or the smaller context of our disjoined lives: loving ourselves more, staying hopeful in humankind, getting healthy. There is no short supply of worthy goals.
Technology is big. More than advances in work and lifestyle, it has become a social mirror and mother: images for comparative analysis of ourselves are reflected and a voice for us to plead and argue with what is projected. So by setting aside one of its preeminent symbols, I hope that when I pick up my iPhone again I am a bit more me because I have taken a break from being “with” others.
I can find at least two smart reasons for escaping my smartphone once a week.
First, I can see myself feeling good for simply having the desire and passion to abstain. In society, there is plenty that we cannot abstain from. I would love to forgo all activities related to state and county facilities, the list is long: license, tickets, car registration and insurance, etc. There are incessant laws that we abide every day, year in and year out. Law-abiding is our job and other citizens are our customers. So it makes me feel good to want to do something for myself without anyone telling me what to do. For in my life I am the first and 100th customer and all them in between. Really, this is the built-in pleasure of any resolution.
Second, I can see myself more in tune with my state of grace. Words of wisdom that I encountered earlier this year keep coming back to me. I was passing by a desk and read “If technology is making us dumber, it’s not technology’s fault.” I was so impressed with the wise-A$$ delivery. I started to shake my head to agree like ok, I hear you. It impressed upon me a responsibility to keep patience for finding the dictionary in my book stacks and for flipping through its rough recycled pages. It impressed the import of keeping silence and stillness.
I can’t be quiet on the phone with a friend, letting our voices go still long enough to hear breathing, without feeling like I’ve committed the sin of wasting time. THOU SHALL NOT send text messages for all occasions.
I’ve read a few theories about technology’s impact on us, especially portable devices. Most experts admit that it’s too soon to exclusively conclude a dumbing down or wising up of the culture. What’s clear is that we are becoming more distracted by multi-tasking so often. This is true for me since getting an iPhone, and I have only had it for a year.
It’s usually when I see other people checking their phones and tablets at every still moment that I get sensory overload and a little pissed off. Watching addict-like behavior in such normal settings like restaurants and cars from people I love is maddening and humbling.
Sometimes I ride in my car without the radio on because why listen today? And without cable, I turn off the TV more often now than I ever did before. Not using my iPhone has the same appeal. I could say these choices are due to me getting older and surly, but that would be a surly outlook. The idiom older and wiser is more apt to fit my current behaviors and attitudes. I just hope that generations of tech-bred babies who sense that there is something greater will have their suspicions confirmed in books, digital OK.
So for my part, I’m taking a page from two culture critics Henry Thoreau and Neil Postman. Thoreau thought if you’ve read yesterday’s headlines, you’ve read today’s. He lived simply so not to burden himself with the burden of those who reveled in the mundane. Postman predicted that television would trivialize our culture because people would not realize its limitations. He believed we would forget what kinds of intelligent conversation and entertainment came before the shift to mediums of constant distraction and dissonance. Both men thought the solution was to be in control and to know the beast of modern society.