On September 20, 2017, “María” hit the island of Puerto Rico destroying everything in her path. The sources of electricity, clean water production, and communications were all wiped out by the powerful debris carrying winds of the category 5 hurricane. The towers used by the cellular companies had collapsed, and suddenly we were immersed in a world without technology. It was as if we had gone back in time 30 years. The priority was to restore electricity and clean water. Everything related to entertainment remained in the background, and although some cell phones were used to make calls, there was no internet connection.
After a few days, something impressive happened. It was as if young people and children had woken up from a kind of hypnosis produced by technology. They had been connected to technology and the internet for so long that they had totally disconnected from what was happening around them. They were disconnected from life and losing the beautiful things that life holds for them every day. The children began to discover what it felt like to play on the street, even when it was raining. Splashing their bare feet in the rain or finding figures in the stars while they tried to sleep on the balcony of the house due to the hot summer became the new way to have fun. They found neighbors their own ages and realized how beautiful life could be, even in the midst of crisis. The young people suddenly began to leave their rooms and talk with their parents about their feelings. They were no longer connected to social networks; now, they were connecting in the real world.
People united, regardless of age, color or political differences, and began to cut trees that blocked the public roads, even the youngest ones helped in the cleaning tasks. “Puerto Rico se levanta” (Puerto Rico Arise) was heard everywhere, the days seemed longer and were more productive than ever before. All the hour’s people previously dedicated to social networks were being used to contribute to the restoration of the island.
While the world lamented the tragedy that occurred on the island, “Boricuas (what Tainos called the island)” were learning a beautiful lesson, “Life is what happens while you watch your cell phone.” After four months, there are still places that do not have electricity or drinking water, but between the noises of the generators and the smell of smoke that those expel, Puerto Rico celebrated a “historical Christmas,” in which the gifts had a different meaning. Our children learned to value simple things. They no longer asked for a video game for obvious reasons, instead, they asked for a table game which they could share with their families and friends to have a good time.
We recognize the importance of what technology represents in our lives, but the most crucial aspect of all is, balance. Technology can be an excellent tool if used wisely, but it can also be a distraction that prevents us from enjoying all the surprises that life holds for us. Bicycles, skates, and camping tents were the most valued gifts by the kids because those opened the opportunity to explore their beautiful world. And the best part was that they did not have to discover it alone.
– Living without Technology, by Lt. R. David Berberena. Corps Officer, Arecibo, Puerto Rico.