Longform

What Would Life Be Like Without Technology? A Onetime Addict Finds Out

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"Congrats! You must be doing something right, because your influence is on the rise!" Klout exclaims. Turns out I'm a peer influencer in the areas of yoga (thanks to a viral video I did) and history (due to a book I wrote, The Dead Guy Interviews). Cats? Not so much. By reposting my articles in trending topic areas and avoiding other networks like LinkedIn, my Klout score jumped to 53 points. And apparently less is more. A study from BuddyMedia suggests keeping tweets to 100 characters or less. As for the number of posts, the "TweetSpot" is four per day. After that, people begin to lose . . . sorry, what was I saying?

I'm an extremely slow reader. How do I know that? Because the PaperWhite Kindle's "Time to Read" feature told me so. (Thanks, Bezos. Maybe I'll come over to your house and rip your nerdy wardrobe.) I only got 68 pages into Telegraph Avenue, and the book is 425 pages long. While I'd like to blame the Kindle's brightness or hyperlinks or X-Ray functionality, I cannot; I was simply not able to sit down for more than five minutes at any given time. Even when I wasn't being distracted, my mind was "anticipating the ping," thus ruining my concentration. Perhaps I'll have more success next week, when my only distraction will be the sound of my overcaffeinated heart.

There are certain times and places when social media is inappropriate: during sex or yoga, or at the dinner table, the theater, or a funeral. Family friend Leatrice Kraft passed away this week at age 83. Though Lee had a wicked sense of humor, I knew I wouldn't be checking in on FourSquare at tonight's memorial. Returning home, I decided it was as good a time as any to to begin my Digital Blackout. For some reason, I didn't feel like sharing my solemn mood on Facebook.

Before powering off my iPhone, I sing Siri the chorus from a Led Zeppelin tune: "I can't quit you, baby, so I'm gonna put you down for a while." Her purple halo spins, then she replies: "I never said you could."

I send a final post before going dark: "Digital Blackout this week! No cell phone, no social media, no Internet. You can reach me via land line, U.S. Mail, smoke signals, or drop by for a visit! " I group e-mail my home phone number and snail-mail address, then sit in silence for 20 minutes staring at a blank computer screen.




Robbie Jeffreys wasn't one of the kids who volunteered to participate in the Digital Blackout campaign. Rather, he had his cell phone ripped out of his soft teenage hands.

"Yeah, I've had my phone taken away a bunch of times, actually," says the ninth-grader at Scriber Lake High School in Edmonds. "This last time my mom took it away because I was being super-disrespectful." He'd been on a parent-mandated blackout for almost three weeks and agreed to be my sponsor during my self-imposed purge.

"My phone's like my baby. It was in my hands all the time. It's how I kept in contact with my friends, and lots of girlfriends," he says. I ask Mr. Heartthrob how he stayed sane while abstaining. "Well, when I think about my phone, it makes it worse. Try and do stuff to take your mind off it."

As I leave my house going cellular commando, I have dueling emotions: One is liberation, leaving it all behind; the other is the fear of being out of range, primarily in case of an emergency. I think about the times I may really need my cell: if I get a flat tire, if I have a heart attack, if someone in my family has a heart attack, or if I can't remember the name of that actor who was in My Left Foot. That's about it.

The Internet's appeal becomes quite apparent as I attempt to buy tickets for this weekend's Bob Dylan concert. Without Craigslist or StubHub, I don't have a clue how to proceed. I could scalp tix the night of, but would prefer not to be arrested. I'm left with only one choice: 1-800-TicketBastard. And that means finding a phone book, a task akin to hunting down an abacus or an 8-track player. Three disconnected numbers, $223, and 18 minutes later, I have two tickets for the show.

Typically when I'm writing an essay, I want to look smarter than I am by tying the topic into some grandiose perspective. And that means Googling it. This week I was fucked: no Wiki, no search engines. How would I include nuggets of wisdom beyond my own? Oh, right: the library.

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Michael A. Stusser