If you’re a part of the generation that grew up with cellphones and social media, you’re probably hyper-aware of the supposed negative effects of technology. I decided to unplug for a week to test the benefits of a life lived offline.
As technology has gotten better, it’s become increasingly difficult to escape the alluring pull of the digital screen. Ten years ago, an internet addiction was something that was confined to a single room with a personal computer, but with the advent of the smartphone, it’s become something that we can take with us everywhere we go.
Many of us lament the time we waste browsing through Instagram’s explore feed, refreshing our Twitter timelines or just catching up on the news. My internet addiction mainly takes the form of Twitter, but I spend a lot of time reading music blogs and listening to podcasts as well.
In recent iterations, the political landscape on social media has become incredibly toxic, and part of the fun is just seeing all of the absolute weirdos out there. Twitter is essentially one big rowdy party where all of your least favorite people show up, and I love it to death.
Spend enough time on Twitter, as I certainly have, and you’ll notice a strange divide between the incredibly fragile and self-serious far-right basement-dwellers, the centre-left and centre-right eggheads who think that The West Wing is cool and mean tweets should be criminal offenses, and the unholy alliance of leftists and shitposters whose irony levels are so high they’ve transcended the physical plane.
Watching a centrist pundit meltdown in real time is perhaps one of the funniest things you can see. However, watching all of this empty pageantry — regardless of how entertaining it is — can’t possibly be good for your brain.
After becoming as extremely involved online as I was, I felt I could benefit from some time being extremely offline. But in the hyperconnected world we live in, that’s actually really hard to do. As well, I realized that the middle of exam season isn’t exactly the best time to toss your phone in a drawer and throw your laptop in a shoebox.
Instead, I opted for a half-measure. I installed an app that monitors phone usage and tried to spend as little time on my phone as possible. After a quick starting diagnostic, I was shocked to learn that I spend an average of nearly three hours on my phone a day. So I made it my goal to stay under an hour of phone usage per day.
Over the course of a week, I managed to get pretty close to that. Aside from one day where I only spent 41 minutes looking at my phone screen, I only spent about an hour and 15 minutes plugged in each day. This meant I had a little over an hour and a half of extra time in the real world each day.
With this new-found time, I spent a day at the Remai Modern art gallery, I read the lion’s share of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, and I finally caught up on my film backlog. I’ve now seen The Shape of Water, and man, I think that movie is really bad. Maybe I’ll update this with my thoughts on Dunkirk when I finally get the chance to watch it in 2021.
During this time, however, I listened to podcasts while doing the dishes and studied on my laptop, so my FBI guy probably didn’t miss me much. I’m not going to tell you to throw your phone off the Broadway Bridge or that all social media is poison. But I will tell you that rethinking how you use technology can give you more time for the things you love, and everyone could use a bit more of that.
Cole Chretien / Culture Editor
Photo: Emilena Charles