I was off of technology for 9 months. Here’s what I learned.
Updated: May 14, 2020
This article was originally published in March of 2018. Reading it over two years later is like a bowl of spicy chicken noodle soup (stay with me here).
Reading it burns because little did I know I would experience 2 more concussions in college that would make things even more difficult. However, there is comfort reading it again as I am reminded of my strength, resilience, and motivation despite the adversity.
Life changed but the content aged well.
Originally published: 3/2/2018
My story is very different from that of a typical college student.
From the beginning of high school, you're groomed to believe that you will graduate, go to college for four years, and then enter the “real world”—the 9-to-5 job lifestyle.
Even though graduating high school should mark the beginning of your new, independent journey in life, it seems as though that’s not really accurate until after college. Where I am from, you go to college, earn your bachelor’s degree, and then you can begin to decide what to make of your life.
It feels safe to be on this path. To deviate from this is different and scary.
But sometimes you don’t have a choice.
My freshman year of college is a blur and that’s due to personal health reasons that I, for sure, did not predict. I have been dealing with post concussion symptoms since the moment I stepped on my college campus. I have learned to manage my headaches now, but I was not able to my freshman year and, ultimately, had to take my spring semester off.
While at college in the fall, I barely touched any technology that wasn’t schoolwork, and following that semester, I legitimately didn’t look at a computer screen for 7 months.
Think about it. When was the last time you went a day without looking at your phone? Imagine even being off your phone for a week.
Because of this experience, I have learned a lot about myself, my desires, and my goals in the life I lead. Technology is an incredible asset we have in our lives today that impacts everything we do, but there is a lot to learn when that is taken away.
I want to share my story with you and what I learned from it. Without that period in my life, I may have never realized the things that have made me the person I am today.
5. You really don’t miss much.
9 months seems like a really long time.
Granted, it is. Just about an entire school year fits into that time frame. To think I didn’t look through my Instagram feed for legitimately 4 months straight seems impossible.
The interesting thing is, it's not that difficult.
Once you get over the hump of not checking your Instagram feed constantly throughout the day as a distraction, you learn to live without it.
Maybe I wasn’t the most up-to-date on what the Hadid sisters were wearing or what meme was trending, but I didn’t really care.
Take a step back, and look at your own life. Remaining "relevant" really doesn't impact your day to day well-being. It’s the people and opportunities in your life that make it worth living.
This brings me to #2…
4. You find out who matters most in your life.
When it isn’t easy to keep in touch, you find out who is really there for you.
Just think for a moment about what past generations had to go through to keep in touch with their friends and family in college. There were no cell phones or social media. They had to write letters or stand by a payphone and hope their friend or loved one would pick up. That shows dedication to friendship.
Today, it's almost too easy. Strip the texting and the tagging, and you find out who cares enough to keep in touch.
There is no way I would have been able to get through that time without my boyfriend and closest friend calling me every week. It was at those times that I understood what a true friend is.
3. You learn to deal with silence and being alone.
This is a terrifying concept for people today.
When someone is sitting at a bus stop, they are on their phone. Waiting in line at the food store: on their phone. Even while watching TV, people still go on their phone.
Don’t get me wrong; now that I can use my phone almost whenever, I have been a culprit of every one of those examples. It almost seems more stress inducing to sit in a public place alone than to sit scrolling through your phone, looking at the feed you just looked at 30 seconds ago.
But why do we do this? Why are we so afraid of not having constant stimulation?
Being alone and silent can actually be pretty liberating. If you avoid it entirely, you will never be able to fully take in your environment.
Pictures are great, but they are of the past.
Be conscious of that, and try to live in the now. I found joy in my time alone because I was able to do things I never thought I would have been able to. Coming from the mouth of a highly extraverted individual, that’s saying something.
. You find an appreciation for hobbies.
It almost feels like certain hobbies are a lost art, or, worse, they aren’t for self-satisfaction but for showing our abilities on a social media platform.
In the midst of our busy and forever changing lives, when is the last time you set aside time to read a book for pleasure? Or a time when you sat back and decided to write poetry or something that inspires you?
You may think you don’t have the time for a hobby, but maybe you should make time.
During last spring when my options to entertain myself were very limited, I had the idea to start a blog. I couldn’t go on the computer, but I wrote ideas in a sketchbook. That way I could hold on to these ideas until I was healthy enough to take it to the internet.
It sounds simple, but that’s what kept me going.
I started this blog for 2 reasons: to provide my best advice for college students going through an overwhelming time in their lives and to give myself a creative outlet among everything else going on in my life.
As it has done for me, I hope it can inspire you to try new things and to see the world in a fulfilling, optimistic perspective. That is the role this hobby has taken in my life.
Hobbies are a great first step to learn to appreciate what we are capable of; an outlet that gives us pleasure in the present.
5. You learn how precious time is.
The direct connection between all four of the previous list items is the value of time. Time is fleeting, never lasting as long as we might imagine. We desire more time, crave more experiences, and, yet, we waste so much of it.
I missed out on five months of my college career; five months to develop relationships and to create memorable experiences. It was not what I planned, but I did learn a lot about myself.
From that point forward, I vowed I wouldn’t waste anymore time. I challenge you all to take on that mentality.
I am just about halfway through my college education; that is mind-boggling.
Don’t look back and wish you did something differently. Understand that there is power in the present and that you have the opportunity to write your story now.
Let's be clear that I don’t have all of this figured out.
Most days I am addicted to my phone, and I sometimes find myself thinking “What did I get done in the past 2 hours?” It’s really difficult not to fall into these patterns.
What I remind myself and am recommending to all of you is to try and take steps in the right direction. Maybe don’t look at your phone before you brush your teeth in the morning or try to read a book instead of twitter for 15 minutes a day.
Remember who matters most in your life and show them that you care. It is easy to be self-consumed. It is rewarding to be selfless.
Respect yourself and respect your time.
That’s what I learned from my 9 months off of technology.