Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This semester I am more unplugged than ever before.

I am Personal Computerless. It's a new experience for me at BYU. I've always had that link to the greater world at large via instant internet access that I could plop down and use anywhere I was. Two semesters ago, my personal laptop broke, last semester the one I was borrowing from my husband broke, and now we share a laptop that stays at home so as to preserve its life. In past semesters, in addition to these personal computers, I've always carried around two work computers as well. Probably between 70-90% of my days at school were spent "plugged in". Far from being over-worried about the "evils" of technology, I enjoy using it to my purposes and I feel I have a relatively high degree of digital literacy.

However, lately I have found I rather enjoy the lack of instant access. Albeit I recognize having a cell phone (though I have what is deemed a 'dumb phone', not even comparable to my husband's iPhone with its dataplan) still allows me quite a bit of plugged-in-ness, I find that I really like having to walk to a computer, sit down, do my work, and get up to do the next thing. It's nice having to share one computer at home, because we try to get whatever we need done on it quickly so the other can use it and then we can both be done and do something together.

Previously I thought taking notes on a computer was so much more effective because I could type so fast that I recorded a lot of information, but I find I attend so much more to the material without a computer that I don't need to be able to type out as much. My husband and I have both now tried the computer v. paper notes and find that we both prefer the paper method in general, though I would still argue that there are some more advanced classes where having the internet at your fingertips (to look up what on earth the professor just said) can be beneficial, especially when the class is large.

I mostly got to thinking about this topic because of my classmate, Amy's post about technological overlays in Vinge's Rainbows End, how "real" such overlays are, and the "blunders" that might result from an inability to discern the difference between reality and technological interfaces. I have developed what I construe as a fine ability to multitask between many different "layers" (having many windows open in my browser and working on several things at one) on a computer, but the past two semesters as I've become more and more unplugged I've felt that I accomplish more in less time. I realize the irony of writing about this in a digital medium, but my hope is to write this post quickly and walk away from the computer for the rest of the afternoon if possible.

My husband and I had a  long discussion about going "wireless" the other night and how technology is becoming more and more mobile and people are staying constantly connected to the rest of the world all the time. I don't think I like the expectation that I will answer a text or email immediately. I like the disconnect from the world, even if for just an afternoon at home or a weekend away from the computer. I feel society at large is becoming more and more dependent on these technologies, and Vinge's novel, taking that to an extreme, shows us completely dependent on them. I don't see our need to be digitally literate as inherently bad, but I definitely have come to find there's a delicate balance, as in many things.  Overall, I am really enjoying my degree of unpluggedness.

Photo attributed to Samuel M. Livingston | Flickr


  1. This is so interesting in the context of our class. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of technology that I am required to use to succeed in certain classes, and obviously our English 295 community is exceptionally technology rich. So how do we balance the benefits of technology in a learning environment with the frustration that comes with constant connection? I definitely don't have an answer to this question, which tempts me to say that as soon as my technology-centered classes are over and I get the grade, I'll abandon the technologies that they require me to use. Obviously, I don't really believe this is an appropriate answer.

    By the way, research has proven that taking notes by hand is, in fact, more beneficial than taking notes with a computer. It's neat that your own experience supports that research.

  2. I feel the same weariness about how we are expected to always be ready to instantly answer the phone, reply to an e-mail, etc. Times are definitely changing in the world of communication.

    I have also done the written versus typed notes experiment. I type rather quickly, but I am a horribly slow writer. My freshman year I mostly took notes on my computer, but I found later on that I took in so much more information when my notes were handwritten.

    Like you said in the last paragraph of your post, there is a delicate balance between connecting and disconnecting with the world, and most of us are still trying to find that balance which works for us.

  3. I was on study abroad last semester in England and none of us bothered getting phones. We were essentially completely disconnected from the world except for the moments when we actively engaged with a computer. Being unplugged from all the notifications and text messages completely changed the way I processed the world. As opposed to passively receiving information via my iPhone I had to actively seek it out. It was eye opening to see how connected I really am back here in my normal life.