Unplugging from Tech Is a Choice

Oh no! Technology has taken over my life! There's no escaping it! What am I to do? If these kinds of statements sound familiar to you, then you've probably been exposed to the frequent handwringing about the invasion of technology into our modern lives and how it's turning everyone into anti-social introverts who constantly stare at their phones and other gadgets. A recent article in the Boston Globe took this idea even further with a piece titled "The End of Alone." In the article, the author discusses how new technology is making it basically impossible to enjoy or even have moments of solitude. The author essentially says that if Thoreau were alive today, he'd be busy at Walden Pond texting pals, updating his Twitter feed and checking his friends' Facebook status.

Jim RapozaOh no! Technology has taken over my life! There's no escaping it! What am I to do?

If these kinds of statements sound familiar to you, then you've probably been exposed to the frequent handwringing about the invasion of technology into our modern lives and how it's turning everyone into anti-social introverts who constantly stare at their phones and other gadgets.

A recent article in the Boston Globe took this idea even further with a piece titled "The End of Alone." In the article, the author discusses how new technology is making it basically impossible to enjoy or even have moments of solitude. The author essentially says that if Thoreau were alive today, he'd be busy at Walden Pond texting pals, updating his Twitter feed and checking his friends' Facebook status.

The article makes some good points and uses some good data to illustrate how people, especially younger adults, are constantly checking their phones and other social technology systems.

But whenever someone says that technology invades life, is impossible to get away from and makes being alone impossible, I have to disagree.

The last time I checked, these phones and other technology systems weren't embedded in our skulls (at least not yet, anyway). To be alone, just don't bring your technology with you, or turn it off. It's really not that hard.

I do it all the time. I like to take walks, and my phone pretty much never comes with me.

When I go on vacation, even if I'm in a city where connections are plentiful, any technology I bring with me spends most of its time off and is mainly used for looking up restaurants and other things to do, not for checking Facebook or e-mail.

Of course, as the Boston Globe article points out, some people have a hard time unplugging. They can actually become physically distressed if they don't have access to their phones and Internet connections.

To me, this says a lot more about these people than it does about modern technology, and what's being said is hardly new.

If, like me, you grew up in the 1970s or '80s, you probably knew people who were hyper-social--the girls who would spend hours on the phone, the guys who would smother their girlfriends with attention, the person who was always trying to organize big get-togethers.

You also probably knew the kids who spent 10-plus hours watching TV, or the guys who would play video games at all hours.

Is there really any difference between these people and the girl who IMs her friends constantly, or the guy who texts his girlfriend non-stop, or the heavy Facebook user, or the "Internet addicts"?

Of course, there are some people who are essentially addicted to their phones and connective technologies. These are the people who become physically distressed without their phones.

But again, this is really about the person and not the technology. Addictive personalities have existed forever. Maybe we should be glad these people are addicted to their tech. It's certainly better than being an alcoholic or drug addict.

So while these technologies have certainly greatly changed our lives--and mostly for the better--they haven't made it impossible to be alone. Anyone who wants to be alone and enjoy their solitude can choose to be alone. And some people will choose not to be.

Me, I'm going on vacation. My laptop will stay in the room to be used sparingly, my phone will stay off in my bag, and the only technology that I'll carry with me will be my camera.

Oh yeah, and my MP3 player. But that's not a new thing. Since I was a teen with a Sony Walkman, I've had to have my tunes with me when I went to the beach. That's how I do alone time. Me, the beach, the ocean and The Clash.