Friday, 1 April 2011

MY ATTEMPT AT LIVING WITHOUT MODERN TECHNOLOGY


My name is Iris and I’m a techno-holic. I live in London – a city that thrives on technology more than most places on earth, working, studying and socialising through modern technology.
The day I accidently left my mobile phone at work was the trigger to my experiment. Using my home landline to call my colleague who had my phone, whose number I got off another colleague who happened to be on Skype, we were planning a meeting point for me to pick up the holy medium. Yes, it was as complicated as it sounds. “If you leave your house in seven minutes, you’ll get there at roughly the same time as me,” said the nervous colleague once we’ve decided on a spot we both knew.
This operation was detailed to military level, and that was over a mobile phone. What happens when there are more variables lost in the equation? Emails, Skype, Facebook, Messenger: could you even imagine life without it?


The ironic thing is that this is just how we used to live until not so long ago. How we did it is long forgotten, a mission impossible for some. “Horrible idea,” my 43-year-old sister emailed me, “can’t you write about something else? Are you out of ideas?”. “Impossible,” my 16-year-old niece declared, “you’re not gonna make it.” Even my friend Jo, who adores a good experiment, was willing to put her money on my cracking after two hours of daylight.   
As for my expectations, I gave it 48 hours, and I was being generous. As a foreign journalism student, with family and friends based in Israel, with whom I communicate online on a daily basis, not to mention my consistent correspondence with lecturers and potential interviewees – I am consciously throwing myself into a well of paranoia and anxiety.



I started “the cut-off” on Thursday morning, after replying all emails and letting the world know of my bold experiment (and possible insanity). I equipped myself with my old Sony Discman and picked out one CD to accompany the commute to Birkbeck’s library. Ashamed of my gigantic vintage gadget out in display in front of my fellow passengers, I hid it well in my bag and relished the shaking voices of Simon and Garfunkel as the train shook along. The cumbersome machinery did not leave my bag on the way back: I chose to listen to my carriage mates instead.
Getting home that evening, I had my dinner and was about to retire to my laptop for my studying-before-bed ritual. I swear I could feel a light shiver as I realised I couldn’t. I wanted to call one of my friends in Ealing and meet up for a late chat, so I rescued a few numbers off the prepared-in-advance hardcopy phonebook and literally picked up the receiver and dialed.

Iron Rule #1: People will generally not take late-night calls from unknown numbers. 

And so I found myself staring at non-quality television content for the remainder of the non-productive evening. 
Finally, realising I’m expecting a text from work, informing me of a pick-up time for tomorrow’s shift, I checked my mobile: crack of dawn pick-up. Disappointed in myself, I turned the phone off and started over.
The next morning was a struggle against the closest thing I know to addiction, realising I will not get my habitual dose of news and emails to go with my tea. So I managed to get to work without giving up to temptation, learning about the Japanese tsunami from horrified colleagues.
But unless I was aiming to get fired, my working day as a shift leader had to consist of not screening my manager whenever the mobile phone rang and projected the intimidating words “Omer Boss”. And, of course, the odd Google search for customers’ contact numbers. “You can’t do that,” one of my colleagues commented, justifiably. “What’s the point if you’re using it here?”
I postponed the experiment until after my usual working weekend at Heathrow had finished and started over.
Iron Rule #2: Anything relating to work will not regress 20 years with me.
On Monday I was scheduled to interview my next victim: James Sargent, a young eccentric musician. Needless to say, researching the character without going online equals no research at all. So I shamefully browsed his Myspace and Facebook profiles and gave myself one last serious take at this, starting over. Again.
After a successful technology-free day of studying at home and taking a long relaxing walk at Lammas Park, instead of my usual break of Facebook chatting and online fashion browsing, I headed for my Monday evening class. The interview was scheduled for 20 minutes later.
The commute to the meeting point, where tube delays are never strangers, raised my stress level to interfacing heart attack, as I wasn’t able to notify the young and restless musician of my possible tardiness. How did yesterday’s businessmen do it? According to my journalism teacher, Ross Biddiscombe, starting the interview on the wrong foot by being late is a suicide mission. So I chose life: I gave in and turned my mobile back on.
I know what you’re thinking: I didn’t live up to my goal. In fact, I didn’t live up to half of it. In my defense, my 16-year-old niece was surprisingly discerning: it’s impossible. I could do it, but then I’d be unemployed, isolated and most importantly – unable to practice journalism properly.
Iron Rule #3: Our world is so technologically dependent that we dread more the day our computer crashes than the death toll of a tsunami. 



3 comments:

  1. Great! enjoyed every row of it!

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  2. Iris,
    great piece and well done. It's a question of cultural and existential norms now. In my opinion trying to live without technology is akin to trying to live without the wheel. it's part of our evolution whether the flat earthers like it or not.Why even try? And this from a Psychotherapist who constantly encourages the retreat to the self.
    Patsy

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  3. Great oone !! Keep up the good work! :)

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