How to Unplug and Recharge in Orange County

Technology Free and Loving It

Written By: Molly Brooks Technology Free
Photographed by: Gil Cope
Model: Viktoriia Dolan

It only took five measly days without my cellphone or laptop to show me that I’m addicted to technology.  

I entered into this experiment thinking a week without electronics would be no problem. I can easily put my cellphone away during a dinner with family or friends. I love to be outside and I try not to stare at my computer screen all day. I’m honestly the type of person to make snarky comments about today’s youth and their social media-driven lifestyles.

However, I will admit that I watch a little too much Netflix and procrastinate doing work by endlessly scrolling on Twitter. I choose to do these things though, right? Wrong. Spending five days without any modern-day conveniences showed me that I’m addicted to these daily practices and it was really hard for me to give them up.

Reflecting on my experience, I seemed to have went through the five stages of grief for the loss of my technology. I denied that the experiment was affecting my life. I was angry when others were using technology, while I couldn’t even check the time on my cellphone. I became depressed when I realized without social media, I had no idea what my friends were doing. Toward the end of the experiment, I began bargaining for it to end just one day earlier. It wasn’t until the last day of my tech-less life, that I finally accepted that I would be OK without a laptop or cellphone.

Saturday: Denial

Saturday was a very busy day for me, and looking back, I’m so thankful it was. I had family visiting for the weekend and was preoccupied by the festivities, which made my first day tech-less pretty easy. I was able to engage with my family without being distracted by a notification on my lock screen. It felt good to be able to give everyone my full attention. By the end of the day, I was wiped out and couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to even think about turning on Netflix. I rested my head on my pillow thinking how easily Saturday passed by and how great this experiment was going to be.


Sunday: Anger

We all know that there are these studies out there about how blue-light from cellphones and laptops ruin our sleep. Well, I’ve never really paid much attention to these findings because I fall asleep at the drop of a hat, whether I stare at a screen before bed or not. Waking up Sunday morning, I felt extra refreshed and ready to take on the day, so maybe it’s not all bologna. This joyous feeling, however, was soon hit by reality when I walked into the kitchen and my entire family was staring at their devices. It wasn’t unusual, as this is a practice that I normally participate in as well. I check all my social media in the morning, read a few popular articles and sort through emails.

This was truly the first time it really struck me that I was being deprived of something. I sucked it up though, and forced people to actually talk to me while I ate my breakfast.

Later that morning, I went on a hike at 1, 000 steps to Laguna Beach. I connected myself with nature… since I couldn’t connect myself with Facebook. Step after step, I soon realized that even doing an unconnected activity, I missed my technology. Not even the breathtaking views or the fresh air could change my mood. I’m a hard-core fitness tracker and soon realized that I wouldn’t know how many miles I’d hiked without my Apple Watch. What is the point of exercising, when you can’t even revel in how many calories you’ve burned? My fury continued once I got to the oceanside because I couldn’t Instagram it. Trust me, the caption would have been #nofilter.

It was official, I’d hit the second stage: anger. Having to live technology-free was really starting to dampen my lifestyle and I was not happy about it.


Monday: Depression

I honestly feel bad for anyone who crossed paths with me on Monday. It was not a good day for me. Living a life without technology was affecting my mood drastically and I attribute that to how lonely life feels without technology. It was proving difficult to engage with any of my friends and not being able to watch their weekend Snapchat stories gave me serious FOMO. I’m also in a long-distance relationship while my boyfriend, and this had been the longest period of time we’d gone without talking.

To try to ease my depression and occupy my mind, I decided reading would be a worthwhile activity. I always complain that I want to read, but can’t bring myself to pick up a book after hours of reading and writing for work. Of course all my reading material is on my iPad, but luckily I had a hard copy of an oldie-but-goodie stashed in my car. I stopped by the Xanadu Cafe to curl up with it in a corner full of comfy couches. The glass case of savory scones, cupcakes, and cookies taunted me, so I grabbed a cappuccino and macarons. I couldn’t take a Google break or veer onto Twitter when there was a dry spell in the story like I naturally do on my iPad. I had to sit in the simplicity of turning a paper page and the occasional people watch.

I spent the rest of the afternoon sunning on my patio and continued to read. The hours flew by and before I realized, it was time for dinner.


Tuesday: Bargaining

Looking for some good vibes and distractions, I spent almost all day exercising. I started my day out at the gym, played some tennis, and ended up going for a run in the afternoon.

To calm and exfoliate those sore muscles, I decided to treat myself. A spa day sounded perfect. I took a drive to The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel to indulge in some self-care. I opted for a revitalizing facial to help myself relax. Wrapped snug in a robe as I sipped on refreshing cucumber water, I enjoyed every minute of it. I knew I would be coming back to enjoy their Beach Comber or Beach Stone Therapy once my technology fast was over. After all, I would need to reward myself for all of my continued dedication!

When I got back home, I felt relaxed yet uneasy. I was in constant debate with myself and wanted to end the experiment early. I was bored. My laptop and cellphone were calling my name. I didn’t give in, though. My dad ended up suggesting I help him with some chores. He lured me in with the proposition of homemade candy. Who could resist making, and then eating, Almond Joys? I then helped him sort his coin collection, a hobby he’d done since he was little.

I was beginning to realize that my dad had all of these fascinating hobbies and talents because he didn’t spend all day staring at a screen. Sure, he and my mom can be technology-challenged at times, but they’ve acquired skills over their lifetime that I worry my generation won’t even attempt.


Wednesday: Acceptance

Maybe it was because I knew I was getting my cellphone back at the end of the day, but Wednesday was actually a pretty good day. I felt more relaxed and less anxious about what I could possibly be missing out on.

I decided to enjoy the sun by renting a Duffy from Balboa Bay Resort to not only celebrate my completion of this hard task at hand, but take in a stunning view while I was at it. I indulged in a charcuterie board with amazing cheeses and bubbly champagne. The breeze felt nice at five miles per hour and allowed me to take time to reflect on the week. The smooth ride let me see the bay clearly, instead of through an iPhone screen where I would normally by Snapchatting right now.

I had promised myself I’d turn on my cellphone after dinner, but when I finished the meal I found myself apprehensive. I didn’t feel I needed, or wanted, to look at it quite yet. I actually dreaded having to sift through all the messages I knew had built up over the week.

What did I learn?

When I finally checked my notifications and sorted through emails, I really wanted to say that taking time away from technology didn’t affect me. Or that I was no better or worse off, and it was a stupid experiment. I’ve read about many people, who after this type of experiment, felt enlightened and unburdened, but I felt underwhelmed and unchanged. Was this because I’m so obsessed with these inanimate metal objects, that I couldn’t find any benefits of going without them?

Initially, this experiment was lost on me. However, it turned out to be one of those “grass is greener” type of situations. It seemed like I wanted what I couldn’t have. The day after my experiment, I was thrown back into the harsh reality that is our modern world. I had work emails waiting for responses, a boyfriend who wanted to continually text again and days of my friends’ social media posts to catch up on. I longed for the quiet that I’d become accustomed to. I wanted to be present in what I was doing, but couldn’t help but be distracted by the 10 other things pulling at me. It was all so jarring.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sitting here right now typing this article on my laptop. I wouldn’t, by any means, choose to give up the endless communication and convenience these appliances provide. However, I needed to be given perspective of what technology means in my life and this experiment did that.

Recently, post-experiment, I caught myself half listening to a conversation I was having with my dad. I was scrolling through twitter when he had approached me and I hadn’t bothered to look up while he was speaking. Before this experiment, I wouldn’t have given that situation a second thought. Now, I see how rude that was.

My cellphone and laptop make my life easier, but not necessarily better. Living without them, my life was a little richer in terms of relationships. Sure, I was lonely when no one was physically around, but that’s life. It made me appreciate the times when I did have company. We think that these devices are bringing us closer, and in a way, they are. We have to be able to put them down though and be social in a way that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection.

Looking Up: Putting your phone away for only an hour can make a difference. Don’t be tempted to stare at your screen while waiting in a line. You’ll be amazed at the interesting people you meet or cool things you see just because you’re looking up.

Motorola was the first company to produce a handheld mobile phone. On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive, made the first mobile telephone call from handheld subscriber equipment, placing a call to Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.


Some statistics on the average American…

Native Knowledge: Keeping your day busy helps alleviate the stress of going without technology. Busy yourself with other hobbies like hiking, reading or coin collecting.

Native Knowledge: The three hardest things about unplugging are:

  1. Not being able to use Google to solve disputes or find answers
  2. Not being able to take a picture when you come across something beautiful
  3. No one knowing how to contact you

Native Knowledge: I talked to many people over the course of this experiment and even those who lived during a time without cellphones or laptops said that they couldn’t imagine their lives without these conveniences.

Balboa Bay Resort
1221 West Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663

1, 000 Steps
9th Ave and Pacific Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Xanadu Cafe
100 West Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
One Ritz-Carlton Dr
Dana Point, CA 92629
Unplugged: Living Without Technology

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