A college student shares the importance of breaking free from technology and embracing life at the moment.
Rabat – We live in a hyperconnected world, bound by the chains of technology. Our lives now center around smartphones, computers, and how many followers we have on Instagram.
Much of mankind is lost in a world of superficiality, social media, and disconnection. Digital social appearance has taken precedence over a true personal connection. Online status and followers have splintered reality, shifting people away from what matters most.
As developers release new applications and unveil new devices, we sink deeper into the vortex of the internet. Our values are changing, moving away from what is truly wholesome and meaningful. Smartphones, the internet, and social media control us.
I came to this realization shortly after beginning my freshman year of college. Everywhere I looked, people were absorbed in their smartphones.
Students walked around campus in their own realities, oblivious to the world around them. This constant sense of connection was everywhere, permeating all aspects of university life.
In class, students checked their screens under their desks. Groups of friends stood around each other, not uttering a single word, their faces illuminated in blue light.
Coming from a small school in the mountains, it pained me to witness this absence of interaction. In high school, I had always valued meaningful connections with both acquaintances and friends.
While attending the University of Colorado, my perception shifted. My new reality was challenging my childhood perspective, shaped by a lack of technology. The world around me was transitioning into a new age, ruled by online appearances, followers, and Facebook likes.
I yearned to return to simpler days when my surroundings allowed me to be more imaginative, thoughtful, and carefree. My smartphone had ripped these qualities from me, confining my reality to an artificial screen.
Despite this, I was very active throughout my college years. My life was full and exciting, brimming with adventures, friends, and interesting classes, but deep down I felt dissatisfied.
In between the major moments of my life, I turned to my smartphone. It provided relief and a steady source of distraction, pulling me out of reality, alleviating all of my worries.
It dawned on me that I could never replace my hours spent online. A piece of my life had been taken forever. I would never get back the time I had wasted.
This thought struck me deep at my core, remaining ever-present in the back of my mind. My life continued to be full of exciting adventures, laughter, sadness, triumphs, and tragedies. I traveled to Thailand, floated down an Alaskan river, and explored the medinas of Morocco. This added substance to my life, but my smartphone and the internet filled the moments in-between these adventures.
If I was not busy or spending time with my friends, I would turn to my phone for entertainment. I couldn’t sit in silence, and I could not break the habits I had formed.
It was not until quite recently that I said “enough.” I was tired of living life through a screen, trapped in a superficial reality, and riding the waves of false thrills.
I was determined to break free, to shatter what was holding me back. In the last few weeks, I’ve been moving away from technology. Through slow incremental steps, I’ve significantly limited my time online.
The gradual move has been difficult but eye-opening. I feel freer, happier, more grounded, and less stressed.
Here are five steps I have taken to better my life. I hope you can learn something from this template. Maybe in the process you will realize something about yourself, and your own connection to technology.
Escape the YouTube Vortex
I know all too well that YouTube is a dangerous vortex with the power to pull you in. Sometimes I would spend hours immersed in videos.
YouTube is the ultimate rabbit-hole, stocked to the brim with useless information and misleading content. For me, it has been the biggest source of online distraction, and I could not escape its clutches.
I decided to block the website. The strategy was extremely effective. It was difficult in the beginning, but as time went on, I found myself filling idle moments with meaningful activities.
These other activities, such as reading, calling up friends, and working out enriched my life, making me a more well-rounded person. They deepened my connection to the world around me and strengthened my relationships.
Ditch Social Media
Letting go of social media could be the most challenging step. As humans, we need to feel connected and to gain the approval of others. It is ingrained into us from an early age, reinforced by our interactions.
By deleting your social media accounts, you are giving up a strong source of connection and validation. You are also going against the grain of society. This is not necessarily easy, but it will drastically improve your life.
Just like any other habit, it is a central part of your life. Society has conditioned you to believe that you need it, that you cannot live without it, but this is far from reality.
Breaking away from social media is incredibly freeing. You will compare yourself to others less and become more grounded in reality.
Social media is designed to focus on superficial appearances, as opposed to authentic connection. What most people post on their accounts is a highlight reel. They showcase the best aspects of their life, excluding the tragedies and the heartbreak.
By letting go of this artificial world, you are giving up a superficial lifestyle. You will begin to live life for yourself rather than for the approval of others.
The Greatest Challenge: ‘Downgrade’ to a Flip Phone
I have long debated buying a flip phone. It is a difficult decision, considering just how integral smartphones are to our daily lives.
They are prolific, and in a sense, a fundamental aspect of society. Our daily habits have shifted away from enjoying literature, meaningful connection, and exercise, to an online and artificial space. Smartphones have played a key role in this shift.
After I truly and deeply began to realize this, I could not shake the thought.
I attempted to curb my smartphone addiction with little success. My old habits always returned, and I could not seem to take hold of my YouTube addiction.
One day, a surprising thought occurred to me. “What would it be like to switch to a flip phone?” I asked myself. I began to take this thought seriously, considering the benefits and pitfalls of buying one.
I recently took a leap of faith, making the decision to purchase one. I know that it will drastically improve my life in many ways.
I will no longer be constantly connected to a superficial reality, chained to my screen. The clunky texting keyboard will also force me to call people more often.
A particularly powerful notion struck me early on: I would no longer waste my life, slowly watching the hours fade away. I would no longer let the chains of technology bind me. I would begin to fill my life with meaningful and substantive activities.
Immerse Yourself in Literature
Literature is the ultimate escape from reality, and a wonderful way to spend less time online. Instead of watching YouTube videos or browsing social media, pick up a book. You will not regret it.
Immersing myself in literature has transformed my life. Books have exposed me to a variety of new ideas. Each new novel broadens my worldview, shifting my outlook on life. I have become increasingly more open-minded, with a heightened understanding of other cultures and ideologies.
Whenever I read, I am completely grounded at the moment. As the plotline beckons me deeper, I forget about future engagements, my worries slipping away like leaves in the wind. My mind and body focus on just one thing: The book sprawled in front of me.
Literature has also diverted my attention away from the throes of the internet. Instead of letting an artificial blue screen absorb my attention, I have lost myself in novels, enriching, and adding substance to my life.
In my opinion, the internet, social media, and smartphones have little value to offer. They suck away precious hours, and before you know it, you could be old and decrepit, much of your existence whittled away by pointless artificial entertainment.
On the other hand, books actually add value to life. By filling much of your waking hours with literature, you will improve yourself and gain a deeper understanding of the world around you. Books will also transport you to places you have never visited, allowing you to escape into other worlds.
Hit the Gym
For the last several years, weightlifting and running have become a regular part of my schedule. Each week, regardless of how busy I am, I always make time for my workout.
Physical exercise is very healthy. It strengthens bones, builds muscle, and boosts metabolism. On top of these benefits, it is also an excellent way to escape technology.
When I go to the gym, I leave my phone at home. As a result, I am forced to focus solely on the workout and remain centered at the moment.
Exercising outdoors is sublime. This is especially true if you have access to a large open space, such as quiet farm fields or expansive wilderness.
I have always found deserted outdoor spaces to be extremely relaxing. When I am alone running in the forest, my doubts and worries wash away. I do not obsess over unanswered emails, a comment I made, or an interaction that went poorly.
The key to exercising outside is leaving your phone behind. Do so, and I assure you that the benefits will be worth it.