The show’s creator, Charlie Brooker, is a big believer in the negative aspects of technology. He wrote for the Guardian in 2011 saying, “We routinely do things that just five years ago would scarcely have made sense to us. We tweet along to reality shows; we share videos of strangers dropping cats in bins; we dance in front of Xboxes that can see us, and judge us, and find us sorely lacking. It’s hard to think of a single human function that technology hasn’t somehow altered, apart perhaps from burping… Read that back to yourself and ask if you live in a sane society.”
When taking a look back at how far our society has come with the aid of technology, the differences in our lives now compared to then truly are staggering. While technology has given us many benefits, it begs one to question if there could be something more gained from “unplugging” from our tech-heavy culture. In a society festering in the toxicity of technology, what good can come out of taking the time to detoxify ourselves, and break free from the cold clutches of our machines?
Unlocking the shackles
For Emily*, turning off all her devices for a week — cell phone, laptop, desktop, and whatnot — revealed to be a very liberating and rejuvenating act; one that she wishes she had done sooner rather than later. “I left all of my devices turned off and kept them in one corner of my room, and for the first few days I was itching to get them back but I soon realized that I had done the right thing. I felt like I was getting rid of the biggest source of toxicity in my life.” she confesses.
When asked about what prompted her to do so in the first place, she was hesitant and discernibly shy, but proceeded to share what really happened, saying, “My best friend and I got into a really bad fight, and I just wanted time and space to be alone but it felt like I had no way of avoiding him because my phone and laptop would ping every now and then with a new text or Facebook chat. It was as if I had no escape.”
Maintaining focus and serenity
While it is easier said than done, it is still doable — you just have to be in the right headspace and think of all the possible consequences first. “Unplugging” from society also means disconnecting from your work and social life, an almost impossible feat in today’s modern world. “Luckily for me it was the holiday break and I spent the entire time with family, so it was easier to head into the new year stress and worry-free,” shares Emily. “Of course I was reluctant, I thought about my other friends; what if they wanted to contact me too? But at that point I had begun to take on the new attitude of putting myself first before others; I hadn’t really done anything for myself in so long that disconnecting from technology read as a good place to start,” she adds, looking calm and self-assured.
On the other hand, even if it may seem like an insignificant and unimpactful change to others, for Emily it was an eye-opening experience that led to the conception and fondness for new hobbies and activities. Within the first three days the temptation to switch her devices back on was at its peak, so she had wanted to keep her mind off of things and stay busy by exercising and maintaining an active lifestyle. She confesses, “It was only then that I realized that my phone was one of the major hindrances in my life; whenever I had free time I would always be looking through it and I would get distracted by a new tweet or Facebook video and lose track of time to do other things,” Moreover, she had purchased a pack of colored pencils along with a therapeutic coloring book for adults, and was more than excited to showcase her vibrant work. “They really weren’t joking about coloring being therapeutic.” laughs Emily.
Returning to the norm
Eventually, she had to face the inevitable and transition back to using her devices. “Once I switched them back on, I was greeted by hundreds of apologetic texts, chats, and calls from my best friend — but I had no other notification from anyone else. Apart from him, no one even realized that I had been gone the whole time. It was disappointing, but that’s a whole other story.” she shares.
Nevertheless, Emily admits that she would still be willing to disconnect her devices again, without an of ounce hesitation the next time around. “It was one of the rare times I could truly be by myself and actually do the things I kept on telling myself I would do, the difference being that I now had no excuses to back out.”
Perhaps the future isn’t as bleak as trendy, dystopian Netflix binges have led us to believe. Maybe people are crazy for thinking the very machines that we build could one day go all-out Terminator on us. Nonetheless, it’s important to go back to our roots, even once in a while. We as humans aren’t born attached to power sockets or touch screens; it’s easy to forget the magical world beyond our technological confines, and sometimes, a quick look back at it can be incredibly refreshing.