How a Bowl of Rice Changed My Life

Patricia Oprea

Patricia Oprea-bwOr a bag, it was actually a plastic bag for the majority of the time that changed my life. Yep, those Ziploc baggies gave me a new perspective on priorities, time management, reality, and how dependent I was on a glorified piece of technology.

One month ago, I had my iPhone in the bathroom, swaddled up in the three layers that comprise an OtterBox case. With my abnormally high level of klutziness, it didn’t surprise me that I ended up dropping the phone in the sink. However, what did surprise me was that the battery died in 6 hours, while the phone wasn’t in use. From that point on, anytime I tried to use the phone it would overheat and die. Everyone knows the sinks in Forest Hills only stay on for 3 seconds anyways, that can’t be too much water damage. How could such a short time, plus a renowned OtterBox case, destroy my prized form of communication and entertainment? What would I do while waiting for the bus, for events, for class? Whether it was sending a snapchat, or playing Sudoku, I had always needed to spend every second doing something.

A few weeks later, I’d realized that my days had been more productive than ever before, while my cell phone lay buried in a plastic bag full of rice most of the time.

I learned to plan things ahead, to memorize my schedule. Without my cell phone I needed to look up bus routes to work the night before, I couldn’t casually do that in class. I needed to remember shuttle schedules; meal times at different dining locations, and what room my classes were in.

I was able to devote my whole attention to people when they talked, and not have to worry about replying to an email or text message. I did not have to be in virtual contact with anyone, and had an actual excuse for it. I didn’t need to send snapchats back, or begin or end conversations.

I realized which people truly continue to keep in contact with me when I couldn’t answer their messages at any given time.

I began to do homework (and focus on it) during small breaks of time when I could’ve been distracted by my cell phone.

Most of all, I became aware of how much we are immersed in our technology. While waiting for an event, meeting, or class to start, I would look at everyone else look at their screens. I felt out of place not doing the same thing. I looked down at my hands, looked at the walls, the ceiling. I noticed light fixtures I hadn’t before, and chips in the paint. I thought about things I hadn’t thought about previously, I thought about society. There were many times of self-reflection, sometimes unwanted.

Yet, it was an utter relief to disconnect and focus on the tasks at hand. I had thought a cell phone kept me organized, when in reality it was the epitome of a distraction.

According to Forbes magazine, 3 out of 5 people spend more time on their computer than with a significant other. It is hard to ignore that structured Pavlovian response to a ringing, buzzing or vibrating, urging you to check your phone ASAP. Yet, people frequently report more depressions, jealousy, and anger after checking social media sites. It seems to be a love/hate relationship. We don’t necessarily enjoy what the virtual world does for us, but we can not ignore it or step away.

When did people start spending more time looking at a screen than at the face of a real person? Texting is becoming more common than face-to-face communication. Technology is thus spawning more miscommunication, and avoidance of reality.

Rethink your time; don’t let the digital world take over your life anymore than it must. People ask, “what did everyone do before TV, cellphones, Internet angry birds, Instagram, Facebook, etc.…” Well, I’m assuming they still talked, they laughed, cried, and felt many emotions on a more personal level. They counted their worth by the true value of a few friends, rather than thousands of Facebook friends (who might as well be renamed “acquaintances”).

I urge you to try this for yourself. That doesn’t mean dropping your phone in water (unless that’s really what it takes), but simply turning your phone off for a few hours. Break the habit of looking at it every few minutes. If you’re at an event, or with friends, turn your phone off. It is more fun to be immersed in the moment than within a virtual reality.

There is nothing to lose by letting go of the technological web for a moment or two. Don’t consider what you may lose, but what you may find.