When we speak about technology, many of us don’t consider the fact that indoor plumbing, the wheel, the steam generator, and ceramic vessel manufacture are also classified under the heading. However, it is worth noting that we live in a society more bound and restricted by technology than any other in human history. For the purposes of convenience, let’s put boundaries on our consideration—what would happen if we removed devices such as cell phones, cars, computers, access to the Internet, and other associated services from our lives?
Let us, for the sake of rationality, not dispense with things such as radio waves or electrical current, because most of us would probably perish without certain conveniences—anyone remember the poor young man who drowned when his car went off a bridge because he didn’t know how to use a manual window crank? So, let’s focus on the things we have become so very dependent upon. How would our lives change if we pursued life without them for the span of a single month?
Have you ever noticed how much you rely on your smart phone? You text, surf the web, clear out your inbox and send new e-mails, perhaps even tweet what your plans are for the afternoon or share a news story via social media? Your attention is focused downward, concentrated on a tiny computer screen. You are not looking at the world around you. Your connections are not necessarily with the people immediately surrounding you. You isolate yourself with this focus.
There’s nothing wrong with being absorbed in a solitary activity in public, such as reading or writing. But we have crafted this isolation to a high art form through our development of technology. This is to our detriment, but most of you won’t really understand how seriously we miss out on experiencing our world and imbuing our life with meaning right here and now until you put down your smart phones and take out the ear buds.
While there will always be a need for humans to occasionally seek solitude—time in which they can reflect and collect themselves—we now share less with our immediate social groups in reality than ever before. By removing things such as cars, and other conveniences that give us the illusion of closeness or connectedness, we will begin to see how important ties to our community and those living nearby become. If you must rely on others to help you get from one point to another, to borrow or exchange goods and services, or engage in entertaining pastimes, you will soon see this point.
Less Sedentary Life
It’s awfully hard to walk and chat at the same time. Sure, people do it. It’s also one of the reasons London has begun padding their light posts—because people smack into them. They’re texting, not watching where they walk. In America, we can extend this idea of convenience culture farther. We have adopted a massively sedentary lifestyle, and our leisure activities aren’t active. In fact, we don’t even open our own doors or walk up our own stairs in many cases—machines do that for us.
Think about all the built up activity that we no longer do over the course of a regular day. How might life be different if we could reach everything we needed without the use of a car? How might we be healthier physically, psychologically, and culturally without these “conveniences?” We live on a digital leash. Our cities and suburbs are designed to necessitate a car, we sit on our behinds for most of our lives and yet we are a culture obsessed with fitness and appearance. We don’t know our neighbor’s names. How might our lives be different if we decided to step back from the things that have wrought this change for a single month?