Technology is a really big deal right now. If you needed this article to tell you that, this probably isn’t for you. For those of you who aren’t living in a cave, the rise in smartphone and computer use should come as no real surprise.

But what if I told you that there are huge numbers of people (young people!) shying away from digital society? You’ve probably had that really annoying Facebook friend that gives up Facebook forever only to return a week later, or seen someone take a Twitter hiatus (or maybe you’re one of those people in which case we might not get along), but they always seem like temporary, isolated incidents.

Certainly, isolated incidents of quick absence are the most common. The #1wknotech campaign encourages everyone to abstain from all but the most vital technologies for a week and then, somewhat ironically, tweet out the hashtag. If you want to get in on the action, it’s coming up soon: November 10th-16th will be your chance to show the world that you don’t need to watch that video of the cutest puppy in the world.

This trend is by no means isolated. This study, conducted by the ICMPA and students at the University of Maryland, showed that even after 24 hours of being tech free, “quite a few students noted their surprise at how productive they actually could be.” Something about giving up technology is making people glad they did. Similar experiments are popping up all over the internet. There are even entire camps where adults pay hundreds of dollars to be forced to live like their ancestors of 30 years ago.

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Photo Credit: Flickr

But is this making any difference? A study found that between 2011 and 2014, Facebook lost 3 million teens. Facebook is getting older. I can hear you saying, “They’re probably just using different social media platforms!” Fair point. But I think it’s indicative of a larger trend.

The Pew Research Center analyzed the activity of social media users found that there has been a large increase from 2005 to 2015. This is not unexpected. The first iPhone hadn’t even come out in 2005. But now, reports say that social media is growing mainly among older citizens. “While usage among young adults started to leveled off as early as 2010, since then there has been a surge in usership among those 65 and older. In 2005, 2% of seniors used social media, compared with 35% today.” So it’s not just Facebook that’s getting older, it’s all social media.

Social media usage chart
Photo Credit: Pew Research Center

Social media is still gaining steam, but why is it plateauing among young adults? Maybe this is only because we’ve reached saturation point and all the adults that will ever use social media are already using it. But look at that chart and the dip in 2014. Certainly no statistics are ever perfect, but this is a 4 percent decrease from the previous year. Though this deficit was made up in 2015, perhaps there’s more here than just a data error.

This report of digital trends lists 2015 as the year in which people go tech free. They call it the “era of the neo-luddite.” A neo-luddite is a continuation of the luddites of the 19th century. Basically the luddites were a group suspicious of changing technologies. Neo-luddites follow that same call to be always suspicious of technology, though that suspicion is now targeted towards cell phones and not factory sewing machines.

People, especially among the older generation,have often been wary of new technologies, but that wariness is slowly becoming mainstream. People feel the need to unplug to avoid distraction. People are missing out on the experiencing the world because they feel distracted and rushed by the very technologies that promised to make our lives easier. In this article from The Economist, the author concludes,

“new technologies such as e-mail and smartphones exacerbate this impatience and anxiety. E-mail etiquette often necessitates a response within 24 hours, with the general understanding that sooner is better. Managing this constant and mounting demand often involves switching tasks or multi-tasking, and the job never quite feels done.”

Perhaps it is time to turn off computers and cellphones (as soon as you’re done with this article, of course), if only so that we remember that they’re there to help us, not the other way around.
So what do you think? Is giving up technology for good a good thing? What about just for a day or for a week? Would you consider giving up your phone entirely, or completely deleting your Facebook account? Lots of other people are doing it, why not you?

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