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Feeling Stressed? Try Going Technology Free For a Day
“My technology-free day was a nightmare,” exclaims one student at the very beginning of her final presentation about technology, nature, and her inner experiences of both. This exclamation amused me so much that I repeated it often throughout the day as I described this project to other students and colleagues at Saint Francis University, a small university nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in central Pennsylvania.
As part of the curriculum in my Environmental Sociology class, students are asked to journal about two different but related types of experiences: two technology-free days and 6 times in nature, in solitude without cell phones or iPods. Their reactions to these types of experiences are both amazingly profound and surprisingly life-changing, but in fact, life-enhancing. In this article, I will share their experiences with technology-free days.
For this task, I gave them some instruction, but I left it up to them how they wanted to define a technology-free “day.” Knowing how dependent most of my undergraduate students are on their cell phones, FaceBook laptops, and iPods, I am loathe to tell them how long they should go without such supports. Some students really stretch themselves and define a day as actually being a day – from sunrise to after dinner. Others can only go so far to define an hour as their ‘day’. I ask them to think about the following questions and write about them in their journals.
How does it feel to spend a day without technology? What effect does it have on your mood? your mind? Your emotions? What differences do you notice between a technology day and a technology-free day? Similarities? What are some things you like about a tech-free day and why? What did you not like and why? How has being tech-free affected your social interactions? explain Please describe any other observations.
In our culture, most of us have become dependent on communication technology in one form or another. And most of us have depended on that technology without realizing how much we rely on it. For example, we text friends, we blog and we ‘Facebook’ (and create a new verb in the process). With college students, I am amazed, and secretly moved, by how often they call their parents. Many students claimed to call their parents every day. Others said they called their parents, usually their mom, between each and every class. Some students complained about missing meetings or practices without technology (apparently, their schedule changes daily and this is how they are informed).
On the other hand, I’m also appalled by how much computer interaction has replaced face-to-face interaction with college-age students who live right down the hall from everyone. They tell me they could IM their friend, rather than just walking down the hall to say hello.
I have used this assignment for hundreds of students over several years in dozens of classes. I am always amazed at the insightful awareness this simple exercise brings to them about their social interaction and their lifestyle. The following are SELECT SOME of their personal reactions:
Being Present: “On a technology-free day, you’re completely focused on what you’re doing & who you’re with. You have no distractions to take you away from that place. My mind was on what I was doing.”
Become more social: “This activity made me more social because to see what time to go to dinner and the time I had to go up to people and ask them instead of sending them a text or instant message. I also notice(d) how beautiful this campus is it really is.”
“Tech-free days[have]improved my social interactions. I engage in more conversations with my friends and girls in my dorm than just sitting in the room talking on IM and text. Talking face to face with people is more personal than just sending IMs and texts.”
Waste of Time: “Ultimately, it’s wasting my time. The thought crossed my mind, ‘What am I really accomplishing by using technology?'”
Addiction to technology: (On a 7.5 hour bus ride to her basketball game, without technology,) “I didn’t think I was going to make it. When we stopped at our first rest stop, I was tempted to ask the bus driver. to open the bottom of the bus , but instead my teammate encouraged me and I decided not to. When we arrived at the hotel, I immediately reached into my book bag for my phone because I really wanted to see my missed calls, text messages, I really wanted to see my lost calls, messages. and voicemails. I felt like a drug addict. I realized how obsessed I was with my cell phone.” “(Without my phone), I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt like I was going crazy. It definitely mixed my emotions and made me feel sad at some points, but then happy again because I managed not to use my devices on the bus .”
Spending time with family: One student extended the tech-free day to his family: “While I was sitting in the living room yesterday, the phone rang. I looked up and looked at our TV. Our caller appears on every TV in the house. Just as I looked back at my laptop, my sister immediately texted me and asked who was calling. It was at that moment that I realized how severely my family depends on modern technology. Later that night, I told my mother. the story. She knows that my sister and I live in separate rooms and only text each other if we need something. So I asked her if for one night the four of us could do something as a group. She thought that was a great idea!”
They went on to play 2 games of SORRY and 1 game of SCATTERGORIES. “To our surprise, we had fun…..Who knows! Maybe this will become our new tradition!”
Start a new tradition in your home! Go tech-free for a day, relieve stress and maybe have some fun!
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