awareness

We don’t really think about how much we depend on technology…until we attempt to go without it. Last Tuesday, I decided to try and see if I could spend a 24-hour period without using the electronics that so heavily influence my young adult life. I had these grand plans formulating in my head; I wanted to take a day trip to Crowder’s Mountain with a friend and go hiking all day. There’d be no need or use for my smartphone or laptop; I wouldn’t be watching movies with my family. I’d be in the mountains, just my friend and me surrounded by rocks and trees.

My friend was heading out of town. Life happens. What would have been a fulfilling day in the middle of the untamed forests and trails was instead a sleepy day in my little brick house. I wanted to share a tantalizing adventure, but all I have to offer is a day at home.

Honestly, my phone first woke me up; I have an app that tracks my sleeping patterns and wakes me with a gentle alarm in the lightest part of my sleep cycle. When I awoke at 9:28, I shut down my computer and handed my phone off to my sister to hide for the day.

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When I’m at home, my mornings are usually just my mom and me in the kitchen, a little bit of quiet time together before the rest of the house is awake. The space smelled of lavender and lemon as a gentle steam billowed from the oil diffuser on the counter. My mother was perusing Pinterest on her tablet, and on a normal day she would show me different articles and ideas that we would like to try, but on that Tuesday I refused to let her show me anything. That happened a lot to me that day; my mom or sister would try to show me a picture or a video, but I would have to say no. It was surprising to me how often it occurred; in social settings people often use technology to bond, or at least my family does.

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While I only gave up a few things, things that I constantly use, I was very adamant about avoiding any contact with electronic or digital tools. I even thought about not using the toaster to make my breakfast that morning, which my mother laughed off.

Most of my day was spent babysitting my kid brother and sister while both my parents were out of the house. My brother and sister are 8 and 12, respectively, and they are heavy technology users. I wasn’t going to force them to go without simply because I was, but it was a challenge to interact with them that day because they mostly wanted to watch television or play video games.

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It was a beautiful day out, so my sister and I were able to convince the kids to go outside for a while. Ben was more enthusiastic about the idea, and I went out with him. He showed me how well he could climb our trees and how he could swing and somersault off of his rope swing in our little patch of woods behind the house.

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We eventually let our dog out of the house, and he decided to join Ben in the backyard. He’s a small and simple fellow that likes to explore, sniff, and sit in the grass while the wind brushes his fur. He likes to be still and experience what is around him. While I was outside, I adopted his mindset and observed my surroundings.

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There were oddly pretty little flowers in the planter that I hadn’t noticed before.

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I saw new hues in the jars that lined the outer windowsill.

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The sky was an ocean. I saw the clouds rise and fall like the waves.

My parents came home, and the rest of the evening was spent at my grandmother’s, celebrating a birthday. It was filled with good food, good company, good conversation, and plenty of appreciation and love for my 19-year old sister. We were around each other, and it was natural, organic, simple. Yeah, some members of my family were on some sort of device at one point, but I ignored it.

I cracked a little when I came home that night; I checked my phone to see if I had missed anything that day, which my sister called me out on. But I restrained; I didn’t open a single application. Instead, I took my loom from my desk downstairs and began to weave, the continuation of a small tapestry I am currently making. Most of my family was watching a movie in the other room, but I didn’t join them. I felt a little discouraged that I couldn’t sit with them, but it didn’t bother me for long.

I went to bed early that night, and I will admit that I turned my sleeping app on again to track my patterns, but that is all I allowed myself to do.

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Technically, I didn’t go for a full 24-hour period; I slipped up by a mere 30 minutes. However, I spent an entire day in my house without relying on technology to occupy my time once, a habit I very often catch myself practicing while I’m at home. There are frequent times when I will spend full days doing nothing at home; I don’t have a car, so when I want to go out, I usually have to rely on my parents or friends for transportation, so I try to limit that however much it discourages me. I’m a much joyful person when I am out, and I tend to get pretty bored and sometimes irritable when I’m stuck in the house. I also tend to rely very heavily on my phone and computer to keep me entertained at home, which might even trigger that irritability. Prolonged exposure to bright screens is not the healthiest for one’s eyes and head, and I constantly get headaches when I’m doing it too much.

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I didn’t have a single head pain that day. My eyes did not feel as tired or strained. I was still a little grumpy while my parents were gone, but I was able to keep it from diminishing me as it has so often done before. I straightened up the house, I played with my little brother, I cuddled my dog, I spent time with my family. I was aware.

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While technology is by no means a bad thing, sometimes it can prove to be a bit of a menace when you rely on it too much. Take some time without it; it can be as long or as short as you want it to be. Put your phone down, and turn your computer off; I promise they will still be there. Take a hike, walk around a city, spontaneously visit a friend, or stay home. Read a book, paint, weave, make music. Go outside, sit in the grass, let the sun hit your face and the wind whip your hair around. Hug your dog. Tell your mommy that you love her.

Be aware.

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