It’s 11 p.m. on a weekday and I’m listlessly scrolling through Instagram images tailored to my nostalgic preferences, despite the nagging recognition that I’m sacrificing precious sleep for unsatisfactory and, frankly, pointless distraction.
Not so long ago I refused to own a cellphone, but had to give in for professional reasons. Now, I find myself on my cellphone a lot more than I thought I would.
Yes, it is a crucial communications tool for work. It has also taken over the role of other devices. It’s my camera on small hikes and other outings. It’s what I use to listen to CBC Radio in the morning. It’s how I sometimes consume stories and music. And yes, I use it as a phone too (though we still have a landline).
In the words of author and cultural critic Neil Postman, I have surrendered to the culture of technology.
Which is part of the reason why I’m fascinated by the Digital Detox Challenge Sicamous’ Cody Hutchinson has created for students at Eagle River Secondary. Basically, the challenge involves students not using their devices while at school for two weeks. This is a something of a social experiment, designed to encourage students to reconnect by speaking and interacting with one another in the old-school ways those of older generations, including myself, are familiar with. For two weeks, challenge participants will be left to socialize without the filter of technology. No corrected typos. No emojis to express sincere, or insincere reactions. No avoiding the sometimes joyful and sometimes awkward learning experiences of person-to-person communication.
I remember in middle school the only computers we had access to were RadioShack TRS-80s with black and green screens. No operating systems; you created your own programs. They seemed worse than the Commodore 64 we had in Grade 5 or 6, though both are a far cry from the technological devices students have access to now and the world of information available through them. While I cannot imagine myself a student in the a modern public school setting, I do appreciate the utility of today’s devices for work and the sharing of information.
I also recognize, though, that some of the more addictive applications truly only benefit those who profit from our taps, clicks and swipes.
My understanding of the digital detox challenge is that it isn’t so much about doing away with devices as it is about finding a healthy balance. I look forward to hearing how the experience was for students and what life adjustments it might have inspired.
From my own experience, I’ve gotta say, Instagram and other social media are definitely not worth losing sleep over.