In an effort to remind myself and my family about the importance of occasionally unplugging…especially when we need to be engaging with one another…I am reposting this piece I wrote last year about the truly wonderful technology-free day I had with my son. Please post your technology-free experiences in the comments section!
Thomas (along with the rest of his class) was presented with a 24-hour, technology-free challenge, by his 9th grade English teacher. In his hesitation to separate himself from his videos and his games, I offered to join him in the challenge and he agreed that we would work as a team. So, beginning at 10:00 PM on a Friday night, we shut off our cell phones, computers, televisions, blu-ray players, game consoles, etc., and they remained off for a 24 hour period. So, no screens, no Wifi, no emails, Netflix, YouTube or texting. And, yes…no Facebook. For emergencies, we were reachable (when we were home) via our home phone. We were excited about this project and we made plans for a day filled with activities where we were engaged by our surroundings and by one another. Please join the challenge with your own 24-hour technology-free day and temporarily extricate your brain from our societal technological dependence!
Friday night, 9:50 PM. Thomas and I are feeling the pressure. It surprises me. I’ve been looking forward to this all week. He turns off “Super Smash Brothers” and says, “Why are we doooooing this??”
I climb into bed and turn on the TV. Oops. I turn it off and slip into sleep while listening to the night. I wake up at 2:38 AM and what do I do? Yup. I reach for my phone. In mid-reach, I remember, turn over and return to dreamland. I wake up at 6:37, visit the restroom and go back to sleep. Unheard of. I rarely sleep past 5:00, even on weekends. I sleep until nearly 9:00.
I make coffee and restrain myself from impulsively loading my iPod onto the stereo dock. Damn. This is harder than I thought. Wait. Wendy has a record player in her room. I love that kid. I pull it out from under her desk, dust it off and grab the first vinyl I see. Arctic Monkeys. I put it on the turntable and gingerly place the needle on the first track. “Do I Wanna Know?”
Have you got colour in your cheeks?
Do you ever get the fear that you can’t shift the type that sticks around like something in your teeth?
Are there aces up your sleeve?
Have you no idea that you’re in deep?
I look through Wendy’s small collection. The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Zooey Deschanel’s “She and Him,” Prince’s “Purple Rain” and The Bangles’ “Different Light.” Before the day is through, I will add Miles Davis’ “A Kind of Blue.”
On track 5, “I Want It All,” the record skips.
Mistakes- Mistakes- Mistakes- Mistakes- Mistakes-…
10:00. Time for a run. Damn. No iPod. No GPS. I guess I won’t be tracking my mileage. I decide on Fryman Canyon and walk outside into the 72 degree sunshine (that’s a guess…my weather app is on my phone).
During my run, I encounter 29 single hikers/runners (some with dogs) and 17 groups. Yes, I counted. Of the 29 singles, every one of them is wearing earbuds, most of them are looking at their smartphones, 4 of them return my “hello.” Of the 17 group conversations, 2 are Spanish, 3 are Farsi (I think), 3 are English (BTW, what IS worse? A hyena or a hairless cat?) and 9 are Russian. Have I been in a screen-induced coma? When did all the Russians migrate to Studio City?
I’m nearing the end of my run and…hey, I think that guy just checked me out. I’m feeling pretty good about my nearly 50-year-old self as a twenty-something super model, who was clearly right behind me, effortlessly sprints past my wheezing excuse. I consider picking up my step and engaging in negotiations for a butt trade, but, even in my head, she doesn’t appear to be listening. “Are you sure? Mine’s vintage!”
3.2 miles later (I know this from prior runs), I walk through my front door, thinking about my environmental awareness and how disconnected I have been on past trips by myself. I also realize I didn’t need my GPS to tell me I was Sisyphus on that hill.
As Zooey croons on the turntable, Thomas gets up and comments on how bored he already is. He misses his videos. We will be inseparable for the rest of the day. Side one of Zooey is done, so he replaces her with “Thriller” and dances in the kitchen while I make breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen moves like that. Not even on Michael. We sit, eat and talk about how challenging this is. I am struck by how dependent I have become on technology in a relatively short period of time. I am further struck by the fact that it is all Thomas and those of his generation have ever known.
Wendy calls and we take turns catching up on her week at Bennington and discussing our current challenge. After hanging up, we change into our swimsuits and head to the pool at the Y. On the drive, we discuss relationships, school, nutrition and fitness, among other things. I love talking to this insightful kid. He is a passionate and dedicated vegan and has educated himself to the point where he now educates me. “Madre, I sometimes worry about how much sodium I have in my diet. Do you think I eat too much soy?”
We thoroughly enjoy our mile in the pool and stop at Starbucks on the way home. Thomas and I look around the store while waiting for our iced venti latte and macchiato and at every table sits someone on their laptop, tablet or smart phone. Thomas even comments on the man who looks like he longs for the attention of the woman he is sitting with who is engrossed in something in her WiFi window.
We go home, clean up and the remainder of our day is filled with telephone conversations (one with his sister Morgan about her current immersion in Ulysses, and one with my other half who, along with his daughter, is also participating in this experiment), Amoeba Music in Hollywood (where Thomas gets what turns out to be a damaged dubstep album and I find Miles), dinner at Hugo’s in Studio City, music, dice and card games in the living room and some of the best conversations I have ever had with my son. Will we go back to our screens? Yes. Technology is good. Did the day give us some perspective? Definitely.
Was it worth it? Well, the day ended with this.
Thomas: “This has been the best day, ever.”
Me: “Really? Ever??”
Thomas: “Well, maybe not EVER…but it’s up there.”
Damn right it was worth it.