Cat’s Curiosity: A total blackout

2 September 2011

Written by: Cat Brooke

As I sat at my computer flicking between tabs: Facebook, Twitter, personal email, uni email (rarely), and the occasional job search, it dawned on me – when was the last time I turned off my computer? Or my mobile phone? Or chose to spend the night doing something productive instead of watching another boring episode of NCIS?

Which left me asking, is being so reliant on technology impacting our lives in a negative way?

All the technological changes over the years have been, for the most part, welcomed into our lives. Technology has been seen to benefit our lifestyle, and there is no doubt that it does make life easier.  But just what are we losing in the process?

I thought the only way to find out was to go without it.  Yep, technology free; cold turkey.

The girl who never leaves the house without a fully charged phone, checks social media like it’s going out of fashion, not to mention has an embarrassing addiction to a certain iGoogle game. Turns out they don’t make a patch for that; I definitely could have used one.

DAY 1

Panic sets in. It didn’t occur to me that when I turned off my phone I also turned off my alarm. I feel sick, like I’ve forgotten something important but have no means of finding out what it is.

I make it to class on time, and suffer through hours of not being able to count down until freedom, or play apps on my phone, or even message my friends to plan a coffee trip after class. I wish I could say that I feel liberated, but really, I feel lonely, isolated, and bored.

At home I sit in silence. My computer is looking at me, like I’m betraying it for using a pen and paper. Soon my hand starts to hurt and I give up. It’s overwhelmingly quiet. I decide to go to the gym. I go to grab my iPod and freeze. Resignedly I take my English book.

DAY 2

Who even needs technology? This is such a better way to live. With my all my new-found spare time I take a yoga class, followed by shopping with friends. Halfway through the shopping trip we sit down and grab a coffee. I look up and they are both on their phones. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed. I probably would have followed suit. Why are we sacrificing actual socialising to ‘talk’ to someone through a device? Is technology so ingrained in our life that we literally can’t live without it, and are consequently missing out on real life experiences because of it? It really seems like it.

That night, my housemate and I head to a housewarming. We manage to get halfway before we realise we have no idea where we are. Without a GPS and Smartphone, we were lost. It’s the most fun I’ve had driving around lost, for once not caring about where we’re going, and just seeing where we end up. We didn’t get far, but we did realise we had a Melways.

DAY 3

It feels strange how quickly I’ve adapted to not having technology. And while standing on the side of the road at 2am, trying to hail a taxi for over half an hour wasn’t an ideal situation, it definitely made life interesting. I’ve had so many experiences in the past three days that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. Isn’t that enough reason to put your computer aside, even just for the day? I’m not telling you to run rampant around your house and throw out everything with a power cord. Just realise the impact it’s having on your life.

In response to my technology ban, my friend told me ‘but it relaxes me, because it’s so mindless’. So that’s why we sit on Facebook and watch TV for hours – because we don’t have to think? Are we becoming the mindless generation? Gen Y has enough problems as it is.

Technology has become so habitual in our lives that any spare second we find we utilise to check Facebook and emails.  We don’t even stop to think: why? We don’t even consider what we could otherwise be doing with our time. We could achieve so much more. People would be healthier, happier, more active, and more social. Yet as technology advances we continue to drop and roll over to its power. I never would have thought that technology was actually repressing my creativity. I always assumed it helped me, but without technology I was free to be spontaneous, I wasn’t bound by constantly checking all the little details.

Technology has its place; I’m just worried it’s taking over ours.

Cat Brooke is a final-year Bachelor of Creative Arts student at La Trobe University and is part of upstart‘s editorial team. You can follow her on Twitter: @CathrynBrooke