From all-juice diets to deep-pore facials to wardrobe purges, popular culture has wholeheartedly embraced the phenomenon known as the cleanse. The unofficial ideology of cleanse culture is that forgoing something in this materialistic, over-indulgent society will instantly provide a clear perspective and a fresh platform for bettering oneself.
Not wanting to miss my opportunity to hop on the bandwagon, I decided to formulate a cleanse of my own by purging myself of electronic devices. Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce may be disciplined when it comes to drinking nothing but moss-colored juice, but they don’t stand a chance when it comes to a day free of all technological diversions. Here is how the day played out:
9 a.m.: Make small-talk with dental hygienist and attempt to contain toothpaste in mouth. Try to avert eyes from monitor playing “Monsters vs. Aliens” in exam room.
10 a.m.: Read the newspaper — even the sports section. Pick up laptop. Put down laptop.
11 a.m.: Go hiking with friend. Enjoy pretty views on mountain peak. Resist urge to post picture to Instagram.
2 p.m.: Sit around house staring blankly at turned-off TV. Leave room when sister turns on “Pretty Little Liars.”
3:05 p.m.: Start new book. Lounge on hammock while reading said book. Savor warm breeze and gentle swaying of hammock. Ignore impulse to listen to Zac Brown Band.
5 p.m.: Still no plans. Discover friendship bracelet kit in closet. Start friendship bracelet. Get string tangled. Curse string to high heavens. Throw mangled friendship bracelet in trash can.
7 p.m.: Attempt to meditate. Can’t use meditation timer app on iPhone. Unsure if it’s been an hour or 10 minutes. Question the space-time continuum. Get headache. End meditation.
10 p.m.: Nothing better to do. Fall asleep.
Every aspect of modern life has been infiltrated by technology, for better or for worse, and my self-imposed technology cleanse made that fact painfully apparent. Like everyone else in this plugged-in society, I am a technology addict, and in swearing off electronics for a day I learned the true extent of my addiction: it was an intervention and detox all at once.
Ostentatious drug addiction comparisons aside, the experience was sobering. Not only did I realize my dependence on my cellphone, computer and television, but I also recognized the extent to which such modern inventions make the world — i.e. my day-to-day life — function effectively.
A day without a cellphone is like a train without a conductor; the destination is neither planned nor known. On this topsy turvy train ride, I tried to revel in the scenery but often found my thoughts consumed by the direction of the tracks.
Spontaneity saved me from total treachery. When I failed to answer her texts or instant messages, my friend Selena simply showed up on my doorstep to take me on a hike, an activity that doesn’t involve screens or plugs or a power source. I effectively replaced time spent cozying up to electronic devices with fresh air, wildlife and scenic vistas. It was my transcendental “Walden” moment, ditching the bustling modern world in favor of some Mother Nature-and-me time.
It’s vital to power down electronics every now and then to experience a true attachment to the wild world, unencumbered by the need to snap a photo of a pretty view or track your location with a GPS. Cutting ties with such artificial distractions makes room for the forging of natural connections, for a total engrossment in one’s surroundings.
Technology distracts from the present moment, it takes us out of the here and now. So I reveled in my newfound liberation, free from commitments to check a Facebook notification or reply to a text or schedule an appointment. I was only responsible to myself in that moment because no one else could reach me, nor could I reach anyone else.
Having communication always at our fingertips has transformed the way people interact in both good and bad ways. Cellphones improve our sense of safety in potentially dangerous or uncomfortable situations and allow us to easily schedule meet-ups. Conversely, our Blackberries and iPhones have made us a society of flakes. Back in the good ol’ days, plans were made to be kept and followed through with. Now, it’s as easy to schedule a lunch date with a friend as it is to cancel last minute, corrupting our sense of punctuality.
Following the hike, I found myself in my previous state of boredom and frustration. I attempted reading and bracelet-making, but each attempt was tainted by the urge to log onto my computer or turn on my cellphone. My freedom from technology was only on the surface, because I still felt its presence in my thoughts, trying to control me even when not there, like an ever present conscience. The noose of technology can’t be loosened in a single day.