As I grow older, a key question emerges about leading my life with technology to its fullest right now. To put it simply, to what extent do I manage to use my electronic devices efficiently every day? Or do I allow my digital environment to control my life to the point that they perpetuate a technology misuse problem?
For in spite of the open ended time nature of my retirement, I seem to be burdened with a technology overload problem. Know then that I choose to spend in excess of eight hours visiting websites each day on my iPad, receive and check up to one hundred emails daily on my phone and possess a habit of watching mindless television a few hours regularly each night before bedtime. I realize, however, that I am not alone here. **For over 97% of Americans presently own a cellphone, of which 77% own a “smart phone”, while in excess of 87% use the Internet in some fashion each day.
You probably think then I wanted to pull a “Castaway” movie escape scenario as the Tom Hanks character did, while learning to survive without his modern conveniences on a deserted island. Actually that would not be the case. For I simply desired to find out on this day how my life would change if I lived for an extended time without electronic technology amid what I considered my normal weekday routine. So last Wednesday, beginning at 10:30 pm., I began my experiment to stay off of my electric devices for a 24 hour period. Know that in addition to discontinuing operation of the iPad, iPhone, television and radio, I would also abandon use of the electric toothbrush, electric razor, car dashboard gadgetry and various digitally clocks situated around our condo. So by not using the convenience of technology for a day, what did I learn?
WHAT KIND OF PERSON AM I IN THE PRESENCE OF TECHNOLOGY?
I’m a self driven person who likes the idea of staying busy while juggling several tasks at a time. Such ambition can be negated by my tendency to rush too much in completing each intended action. When facing more challenging problems , I tend to process my own solutions ideas holistically and thus overthink when step by step solutions are involved. You might say then I’m creative but a bit “scattered.”
WHAT KIND OF PERSON DID I BECOME IN THE ABSENCE OF TECHNOLOGY?
I actually began to take on even more tasks than usual in the morning such as organizing my paper files, cleaning out clothes drawers… Yet I felt less rushed to continue each task “one by one” to their logical completion. It seemed that I pondered less and acted with stronger conviction. As the day continued, I grew restless and thus moved around alot to a nearby public library, city park, and my mother’s retirement home. In such case, this mobility itself felt relatively normal but my enhanced sensory awareness of my surroundings seemed extraordinary. I don’t normally listen to bird call sounds and street traffic noise as I did this day.
TO WHAT EXTENT DID I REALIZE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY CONTROLS MY LIFE?
I cannot deceive myself here. This experiment of non-technology use for one day made it “crystal clear” that my devices form the backbone of my present lifestyle as a retiree in South Florida. I’ve noticeably diminished my former ways of writing by hand, reading paper print, making numerical calculations in my head and depending on my short term memory to recall daily task details. Doing all four of these actions without technology today felt more uncomfortable.
HOW DID INTERACTION WITH OTHER PEOPLE AFFECT THIS EXPERIMENT?
In completing this project alone, other people I interacted with this day were not similarly going along with my project. Therefore, I found it difficult to avoid awareness of my wife’s daily technology routine. So I frequently just left the room. At 2:15 pm., my mother called me while I was at the library. Instead of answering the phone as I always do, I drove directly to her apartment to make human conversation
WHAT NEW ACTIONS DID I LEARN TO COMBAT TECHNOLOGY OVERLOAD?
I learned on this digital silent day that I waste valuable time day and night reading and writing electronically. It’s also evident that multitasking behavior will be less efficient for me as I more judiciously weigh better use of my technology time.
WHAT KIND OF TECHNOLOGY DID I MISS THE MOST? WHY?
My iPad. It fits best my mobile lifestyle of travel.
WHAT KIND OF TECHNOLOGY DID I MISS THE LEAST? WHY?
Television – TV shows I watch encourage passive idleness which do not seem physically healthy for someone who wishes to manage successfully the aging process. Contentious political networks like CNN and FOX particularly exacerbate an emotional side of this problem.
WHAT DID I LEARN ABOUT IMPROVING MY DAILY ROUTINE?
Throughout the course of this day, my morning and afternoon seemed least affected by foregoing technology. Daily activities like eating, napping, doing errands, and engaging in exercise seemed only moderately affected. But nighttime became a different story. Spending no time on my I Pad and the television after dinner helped me to relax significantly better as I read my Hamilton novel and engaged in some much needed happy talk with my wife. The right technology routine for me thus obviously means that by cutting back my electronic technology at night would help me to become a physically/ emotionally better person.
WHAT UNEXPECTED TECHNOLOGY NON-USE SURPRISED ME ?
Entering my mother’s Independent Living facility requires a mandatory, electronic sign procedure. On this day of non -technology use, I seemed unhappy about following this procedure. Maybe I can find another way to get access to her apartment in the future.
DID YOU OBSERVE ANY CHANGE IN MEMORY FOR DAILY TASK COMPLETION?
Yes. Without my devices , I took more time to focusing on driving directions that I wrote down manually in lieu of relying on my vehicle GPS device for direction/ distance details. In addition, I actually enjoyed listing and organizing ideas on paper today to help my mother, so I could remember them later. Why am I not doing this more these days?
DID YOU NOTICE ANY CHEATING OF YOUR NO-TECHNOLOGY INTENTIONS?
Time seemed the my biggest electronic enemy today as I could not avoid frequently looking at the digital clocks spaced around our condo today. My occasional glance at the living room location of the large screen television a few times as well could not be physically avoided.
** Source – Pew Research Center (2018)
I loved reading your post. And I would love to throw all my gadgets away for a day or maybe a week but it seems near to impossible. My generation has become so accustomed to using laptops, cell phones – or any such electronic device at all – that it feels life without it would be incomplete
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I wouldn’t recommend throwing devices away- Just. find ways to limit their use when they interfere with your daily life happiness. Social media is a big problem here.
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I make my living in technology (Director of IT) and I think everyone should have a break from it. It helps us in a lot of ways but in other ways it kills parts of us. My math and spelling skills have gone downhill because I rely on autocorrect and a computer calculator.
Kids not being able to write a complete sentence and I see myself doing the same also.
I could read a map before…now…no way because I rely on Waze.
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I have friends who retired from IT work that have totally gone the other direction in embracing life in a minimally technological way.
As usual I enjoyed reading your blog. You always choose interesting subjects. Technology can indeed be addictive and keep many people from enjoying their “real life”. But, it also can be a life saver.
Like any other invention, over use or misuse can make a huge difference in the way technology is handled.
Personally, I love technology. During the pandemic I was never so grateful for it. As a senior citizen living alone and going through cancer treatment during lockdown, it was truly a life saver. It allowed me to keep in contact with my loved ones, have FaceTime visits with my doctor, read virtually with my grandchildren, and best of all, it kept my spirits up. I was never bored or depressed like so many others. I was spending 7 or more hours every two weeks in chemotherapy, and after returning home I was very ill for the next few days.
Obviously, when I was so sick, I couldn’t use technology, but it was there if I needed it to call 911. I took my cell phone into the bathroom in case I fell and kept it by my bedside if my vomiting became too intense. A simple touch and I’d get assistance.
On good days I wrote on my iPad to keep a positive diary of my progress. Some days the only thing I could do was mindlessly binge watch hgtv or something on Netflix in between vomiting and sleeping. So technology was my best friend, my spouse, and my care taker. It was way more than mindless entertainment. It kept me alive and positive.
So you see, I have a very different view of technology now. I use it when I am feeling well enough to do so. I use it for virtual doctor visits, for FaceTiming family and friends. It has United me with people and kept me from feeling lonely or isolated.
When covid prevented in person visits. It kept me from feeling sorry for myself during cancer treatments. ANd it even allowed me to go to zoom religious events like a baby naming and a funeral.
At this stage in my life it is just as crucial for my treatment is as a walker or a wheelchair. It makes me feel apart of the world
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I commend you Lesley for so boldly embracing technology so judiciously. I’m a little more obsessed on it than you it seems
Quite a profound post Mr. usfman.
We’ve become slaves of technology within the past decade.
The tendency of human to make every one of their task more effortless is quite awful(couldn’t think of the better word).
Very good of you to take some time off from these things.
Yu’re welcome. I hope others try the same.
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