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Every so often I decide to become Amish and give up modern technology for the weekend.

Just switch off completely and be like the Amish; completely disconnected from the outside world so as to focus on the things that really matter in life.

My hope is that I will then rediscover the art of observation and quiet contemplation rather than staring continuously at a little box and swiping it with my finger like a crazed squirrel.

It never seems to work out though; my brain is hardwired to the Internet. Next year will be my 20th anniversary of being on the Internet. I’m such an Internet veteran that I remember when there were only two internet providers in Sydney, one run out of someone’s garage in Penrith!

As convenient and interesting as technology has made our lives though, it has also changed them dramatically and with such speed that perhaps we haven’t really paused to consider.

Maybe that is what my Amish attempts are about – an attempt to slow down and assess all this new technology.

It is hard to believe but smartphones were only introduced to the market en masse in 2007. Now nearly two-thirds of the Australian population own one.

I remember the first time I saw a smartphone – I was at a business lunch when someone asked a question that made everyone scratch his or her heads. We all started guessing the answer when the gentleman next to me very confidently gave the answer. How did he know? And how could he be so sure?

I looked down at the table and he was playing with something that looked like a miniature computer screen. He blushed and admitted that he looked up the answer on Wikipedia using his new iPhone. Everyone ohh’ed and ahh’ed. Shiny.

Fast forward seven years and the time before smartphones seems so ancient.

It was a time when you’d have to find a television or radio and wait to certain times to hear the news. When you would listen to an entire album as a complete journey rather than shuffle through thousands of random songs without being moved once. And it was a time when you would write down questions on paper to later look them up on Google when you got near a computer.

Owning a smartphone has changed so many parts of my life for the better. My roaming calendar makes me appear way more organised than I really am and I can effectively run a business from the palm of my hand.

On the downside, my attention span has narrowed down to that of a toddler, I am no longer able to stare blankly into space while waiting in a restaurant or bus stop, and I certainly can’t just check my email once a day.

Everything is just there, at the chime of an alert that feeds on the natural curiosity of humans. I can’t hear an alert and not flinch automatically to respond.

Compounding the impact of smartphones is the rise of tablets and iPads since 2010. These sleek little devices make it even easier to just pop online to check a fact and, four hours later, find yourself scrolling through endless reams of lolcats and wondering what happened to your afternoon.

And that brings me to the most addictive part of new technology – the content. In particular, social media. Ah, the Achilles heel of all efficiency and time-saving efforts.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…choose your addiction. Mine is Facebook.

Apparently there’s an app you can download that can tell you how much time in total you’ve spent on Facebook. I don’t want to know. I don’t even want to know such a thing exists.

My addiction ramped up big time with the purchase of my first smartphone.

Before that, I’d log in once a day at my computer (how last decade), make a few comments, set a status and be done with it.

Now I check it incessantly. I try to set limits but, again, there is something about social media that taps into the well of human curiosity. What’s going on? Who’s got news? What if I miss it? What if I’m not the first to know?

So what to do. As ashamed as I am to admit it, cold turkey doesn’t work for me. I actually start to get anxious a couple of hours into my Amish existence.

Cutting down on screen time has also proven challenging. I think the only thing left for me is to physically remove the devices altogether. Maybe I’ll leave them at work over the Christmas break. Yes, that could work.

Ok, that is my plan. Over the Christmas public holidays I am going to forgo all technology and instead contemplate what kind of relationship I want with it in 2015. I will even resist the temptation of making a Facebook group for people to join me in this, my call to Amish.

If you do want to join me, raise your hand! Nobody will see it on their newsfeed but who cares. All revolutions start out quietly.

Have you ever tried to go without technology? How did you go?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • It is nice to take some time out and limit it but that is the most far I would go.

    Reply

  • You would never be able to go completely Amish any way. They have NO power and no running water for starters

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  • It is hard sometimes to turn of the technology it just always seems to be there and when you try to reduce it you realise how intertwined it is with daily life.

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  • Love it! I don’t like being absorbed with technology all the time but haven’t ever really taken it all away either.. May give it a go..

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  • I could do this — IF we went away camping for the weekend!

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  • I could do it easy cos I love the bush and camping just to get away from it all

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  • I am truly fascinated on the Amish Community. I love the simple life, I wish we didn’t have all this technology. I hate it. All of this technology is bad for us. Some will argue this comment and say we need technology to advance. But, why do we need to advance. The bills such as electricity, telephone, water, etc etc can be overwhelming and destroy a family. Credit cards, store cards, why have these, if you don’t have the money, don’t spend it.

    I am looking at reading books on the Amish, I love the simple life, making things for gifts, why spend hundreds of dollars on a gift, it would mean more to me to have something made from one of my grandchildren.

    One year for our wedding anniversary, I suggested to my husband that we have a $20 limit. No more was to be spent. It was amazing. I received the best gifts because he had to think, he went to my favourite shop and bought me lovely gifts. I think a total of 3 gifts.

    I love the amish, so we should appreciate them more and learn more about them.

    Have you watched ‘Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman’? I love it. I have it on my external hard drive and dvd’s. I have probably watched it 4 or 5 times over the last 4 years. It is a simple but hard life, now that is the way i would love to live. I believe I must have lived in that life in my past life. I dislike so much technology and how we have to rely on technology for everything.

    I believe we should look at the Amish lifestyle and appreciate it and probably follow it more.
    xx dee

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  • I haven’t exactly tired but alternate between wanting to throw all technology away and not being able to function without it. I’m going to try short periods with no technology. Even one night a week would be better than nothing I think

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  • Oh dear im so with you.this happened 10 yrs ago when i met my husband. I did not want any technology except for tv and some1 has to break the rule.10 years ago we only had 2 mobile phones, no landlines and it worked better for me because im deaf. 1 tv in loungeroom. My husband said he wanted foxtel and i said not til we get married. In that 10 yrs we had a son, 1 more tv in the room for me to wake up in dim light but to watch telly while breast-feeding. Another 2 yrs later a daughter and foxtel and no we werent even married. When my son was in prep he was not liking school not one bit, he wouldnt read books etc so my mum n i thought giving my son an ipad (wrong move hes soooo addicted to it that i have to make a rule for it). Everyone has wii xbox ds etc…with my sons self esteem n confidence, he was rock bottom and my nefew whos a yr older than my son has every technology’s in the house would not let my son touch anything because he doesnt know how to use it. So my mother in law lead my son her wii and played some fun games, he got skylanders from my sister inlaw for his bday n boy he was hooked. So my son got a 2nd hand wii with games for christmas 2 yrs ago.Another tv outside the house, another ipad given to me by my husband that i did not want, my husband got an ipad for work and my daughter wil get a ipad for her birthday this year from my mother inlaw. Think im over with tech as they rule ppls minds. Living in amish ways and living style would be so cool and a very good learning experience. I have gone 2 weeks with tech but since we dont hve a home phone, mobile is my way of communication.

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  • I seem to forget about technology when I am cleaning.

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  • If I am reading a good book, technology becomes obsolete.

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  • I go on a really me weekend, it is in a remote cabin no phone or power it is the high light of my year

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  • Last year, my family went for a vacation back to my hometown for 3 weeks. We had no Internet access for the whole period. It was a great trip to spend the family time together without any modern intervention.

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  • I must say that I do love my mini iPad because I can read my kindle and iBooks on it. It also has a camera to capture one of those moments.

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  • I often hear people complain about technology and smart phones. I use them to my advantage rather than letting them rule me. Yes I have a mobile phone. That doesn’t mean I have to answer it if I am busy with something else or don’t feel like chatting. Yes I have a Facebook account. Doesn’t mean I have to check it or comment on things. I also have a TV, doesn’t mean that I have to switch it on if there is nothing I want to watch.


    • I agree with your comments; well said.

    Reply

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