I did the unthinkable recently. I did something that very few in the technology industry would dare to do. I gave up my gadgets for three days. More specifically, I gave them up from Tuesday night to Friday afternoon. All of them. Certainly, I did not separate myself willingly. I had to. Sparing all the details, I went on a bit of a trip.
So what exactly did I give up? I had absolutely no access to my iPhone, iPad, camera, any computer including my own, any television, and I even spent most of my time without a clock. My only form of entertainment was a book of Sudoku games I brought with me, which I ironically started playing recently by downloading the iPad app. Although I was with people, I could not place a phone call or log on to Facebook or Twitter to contact anyone. I had no way of keeping up with the latest technology news either. It was scary.
Researchers at the University of Maryland actually conducted an experiment much like this one not too long ago. They took away all forms of media from 200 students for 24 hours to study their supposed Internet addiction. The result was many students reporting feelings of anxiety, withdrawal, and loneliness. Some could not function up to their full potential without a reliance on social media.
Typically, I bring my iPhone where ever I go. Even if I am just taking a walk around the house, it comes with me. I am not rude when using it, though. If someone is having a conversation with me, I will not pull out my phone and start text messaging. That is almost like trying to watch a television channel that is off-air. So while I do use my iPhone a lot, I do not consider myself totally obsessive.
On the first day without electronics, I began longing for my phone here and there. A few times I had an urge to whip it out and start tweeting, but as I reached into my pocket I realized it was empty. I then put my hand back on the table with a sigh. At night, I felt somewhat lonely without it. When I looked out the window to view the dark skies, it seemed as if there was an entire world to explore — a world I was no longer a part of.
So far, so good. I was not experiencing any depression or anxiety like those college students. I did feel occasionally lonely. I had a few more urges to use my iPhone today, but not as much. I think I was getting accustomed to the separation. As much as I would have enjoyed getting online at any time, it was not available to me. I had more time to think for myself and figure things out. Google could not feed me all the answers as usual. And hey, believe it or not, there was actually a time when people lived like this.
My final day without gadgets was when I came to the full realization that all the technology news in my life was missing. If Motorola and HTC combined forces to announce the all-new Droid Bionic Pro Incredible Charge X3, I still would not have a single clue about it. This was definitely an annoying feeling. Plus, I was really starting to miss my computer and my iPad. As I mentioned in day one, I felt very disconnected without the ability to post status updates and stay in-the-know. By this point, quite a few people who know me well were coming up and asking me if I had the shakes yet.
I look back on the experience and it was not as bad as I expected. I thought I was going to go insane without my gadgets, but I have come to realize that they are just luxuries like many other things in this world. For work and other purposes, I obviously need these essential electronics in my life. But when I simply can not have them, it really is not all that bad. Now that I do have everything back, yes, I am using my iPhone, iPad, and laptop like crazy again.
My theory on why college students in the report experienced depression and withdrawal is because they actually just did not spend enough time away. It was only 24 hours. After another day or so, I learned to make do with what I had. In a society where our gadgets do all the communicating for us, I think now more than ever it is important to take some time and make sure we are still developing social skills properly. Then again, if you feel you suffer from an Internet or gadget addiction, you can always Google it.