By Aubrie Wise
To give up everything and live simply seems to be every 50 something retirees dream. However, is it really how everyone should live? According to Thoreau, it is.
Henry David Thoreau author of the famous Civil Disobedience, writes in his essay Walden detailing the time he gave up all distractions and technology in the 1850s to “live simply” at Walden Pond. He encourages others, in his essay, to do the same and give up all meaningless distractions.
I, however, have a few issues with it. Thoreau speaks of giving up technology, and instead focusing on what you can learn from nature and the world around you, but not everyone can afford to “live simply.”
Life is busy and consuming, and a life without an iPhone seems impossible now, even when just a few years ago, I didn’t own one, and two decades ago, they didn’t even exist.
Moreover, an iPhone is just the tip of the iceberg for technology; there are laptops, TVs, video games, even my car has a digital screen in it. When Thoreau decided to live simply, the technology he gave up was the Post Office and the newspaper. Yet when I think of technology those things don’t make my list.
There are, in reality, so many things that are technology: cars, pencils, heat, electricity, and even light that comes from anything but the sun.
With that in mind, I decided to give up only the most significant technology of my time, just like Thoreau gave up the highest technology of his. For me, in 2019, that means my smartphone, laptop, and tv.
Let the 24 hours begin.
The day already started rough; it turns out, I can’t even wake up without my cell phone. My alarm clock was ditched long ago in favor of my multi-functional smartphone.
Instead, I had to rely on my mom, which was scary enough in itself to make me already begin to miss technology. It seems, giving up technology it “live simply,” is actually making life harder.
Then again, maybe “living simply” shouldn’t involve waking up at 6:30 am to take the SATs.
Up until 1:30, I spent the day locked in a classroom with the only technology around being my graphing calculator and pencil.
After that I spent the day at lunch and Target, doing my best to avoid all the digital screens that clutter every establishment from paying on a Kiosk at Chili’s to having to avoid the entire electronics section at the store.
The deprivation of technology, however, didn’t really hit until I went home. There I was sitting in my bedroom with absolutely nothing to do.
I painted my nails, filled in an adult color book page, and read half a Percy Jackson novel, and twenty minutes later I was bored again.
My 24 hours without technology was almost over, and I still felt like I wasn’t any more of a Transcendentalist.
I hadn’t made a difference, and with it being 26 degrees out, I hadn’t even been outside for more than short moments sprinting to my car to avoid the outdoors.
That’s right; I actually avoided nature during my day as a Transcendentalist. What a joke I was.
Me, as an individual, without technology, had no power to influence society and make the world a better place.
Although the day may have been more “distraction free” since I gave up technology, it really wasn’t. I only replaced the time spent on my phone or watching tv with other distractions like painting my nails over and over again because I kept messing up.
I want to say I learned from the experience, to say how refreshing it was to put my technology down for 24-hours, but I honestly can’t.
I felt forced and pressured to be doing something all day with my time, that I realistically, just couldn’t accomplish. Instead, I filled my time with meaningless activities, besides taking the SATs, until it was time to go to sleep, just like I would any other Saturday.
Maybe my expectations were too high, perhaps the slight moments of relaxation and the release from the pressure of Social Media should have been enough to make the day “successful.”
Or maybe, I just know what it is like to give up technology, and actually, make a difference.
My day living simply like Thoreau wasn’t the first time I’ve given up technology in an effort to make the world, or just myself, better.
In eighth grade, for Lent, I gave up my cell phone entirely. It was hard, and a lot longer than 24 hours, but in that situation, it was for Lent and to strengthen my religion, which made it seem more worth it.
Another time I gave up all technology is on my Mission Trips. Twice have I been on a trip where technology was banned. Instead, the time is spent helping others all day and spending time together as a group bonding in the evening.
So maybe Thoreau wasn’t all wrong.
There are times when you need to eliminate distractions from your life and instead live simply, or better yet, purposely. Just maybe not on a Saturday in the middle of winter again.