Tech, Now + Beyond

I listened to the advice of “tech experts,” and it made me lonelier than ever before

There's a serious problem with the "unplugged" movement.

I’ll admit it: I used to be a bit of a technophobe.

I’ve often been the friend that declares no one can have their phone out at the dinner table. I’ll also lament at my partner for being more entranced by his Instagram feed, than by his conversations with me.

At the core of it, I was anxious about how I was letting technology permeate and dictate my life. I had to take pauses every now and but then I realized I was more concerned about how I should caption a photo on my social media than I was about living in that actual moment. I had to take even longer pauses when I realized how toxic living my life “plugged in” could be when I felt depressed or anxious.

To heal and protect myself, I often found myself following the adage “disconnect to reconnect,” where people unplug from phones, computers or tablets to remember to live mindfully.

The concept of disconnecting to reconnect has good intentions. Many of us can admit that we often catch ourselves spending more time browsing the internet than we do having sincere conversations with those around us. Research has also found that our brains are being rewired from spending too much time on these devices and that some of us are even addicted to them.

Needless to say, unplugging from tech can be completely necessary. But with deep reflection and trial and error, I realized that completely unplugging from technology didn’t help me in all the ways I wanted.

Here’s the problem with disconnecting to reconnect: The adage relies on a premise that technology inherently disconnects us from sincere human moments. This simply isn’t true.

Don’t get me wrong, getting away from the sources of stress and anxiety that might fill my life has been beneficial. Though eventually, I start feeling isolated because by turning off my phone and computer, I’ve effectively cut off my lines of communication with the people who could support me best in times of distress.

Along with cutting off communication with loved ones, I also realize removing tech from my life removes the ways that I stay on the same beat as the rest of the world. As a socially-conscious media professional, being informed is crucial. I remember shutting off my phone for even a few hours in the beginning of 2017 to get some peace and quiet and almost missed news about the airport protests to Donald Trump’s travel ban. I was pretty distressed from missing even a few hours from the news cycle. I want to stay informed and connected, but in order to do this, I need technology.

I realized that the very things I was unplugging from my life were some of the very things that fulfilled my life. From listening to music, reading the news and thinking of pieces, or even connecting to a family member from the Philippines, I am being mindful in my own way. By completely disconnecting from these areas of my life, I felt more isolated than ever before.

Technology is a powerful tool in human connection. While I do believe taking periodic breaks from your phone or computer can be entirely necessary, technology shouldn’t be something we fear.

  • Alicia Soller

    Alicia Soller is a first generation-born Filipinx American digital storyteller committed to uplifting the narratives of communities of color. She is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she received her B.S. in Journalism and began her involvement with community organizing. She currently does freelance writing, marketing and design work with non-profit organizations.