Can you survive a week free from all technology? I’m talking about no phone, no video games, no computer, no TV. You might be saying, “Yeah, no problem!” or you might begin having panic attacks the moment you think about being without your smartphone. Either way a week without technology in contemporary developed society seems near impossible.
Believe it or not, there was a time not so long ago when smartphone didn’t exist. There was no instant messaging, or Facebook reservations, there was no instant news feed, or access to global information at the click of a button. For a long time, people congregated in common spaces to hangout, learn, and spread news. Because the technology didn’t exist, everyone was on an even playing field, everyone needed common spaces and communities where they could socialize.
We don’t have places for that sense of community anymore. That new hip bar in town, you heard about online, made reservations on your smartphone, and accepted the invitation on your Facebook group. You probably carry your smartphone around with you everywhere you go, in traffic you check your Facebook notifications, waiting in line you read your Twitter feed, and standing in elevators you probably do anything on your phone that looks important to avoid awkward conversations.
Reestablishing the town commons might be a far fetched idea, but creating spaces to succeed technology free might be the first step. Sherry Turkle argues that we should make parts of our own home ‘tech free zones’, where real conversation can happen between family members. The dinner table, kitchen, or other common spaces such as the living room as technology free zones could encourage face to face conversations allowing people to really get to know one another.
Why is it that we are so terrified to be without our cell phones and laptops for a few days? Because we fear being out of the loop. Our society is set up around the advances our technology gives us. It is easy to spend a week away from technology, if everyone else is technology free as well. For instance, retreats, camps, and rehabilitation centers all have strict no technology policies. What they do have though is a strong sense of community.
It is my opinion that we should be creating more technology free communities throughout our societies. Places where face-to-face communication is necessary, making our communities real and not just imagined online groups. We have seen the power of the internet and the way that it was able to change the ways in which we communicate, learn, and grow as a community, but we have also seen a loss in the quality of in person communication and community settings. If we began to set up technology free communities and spaces we might just see a positive change in socialization.