Sparsely decorated and warmly lit with incandescent bulbs he installed himself, JG’s Woodbridge room is nice enough to look at. But it’s not what’s in the room that caught Bwog’s attention; it’s what’s notably absent—namely, the Internet. Unlike the rest of Columbia’s Gmail-addicted, Twitter-happy student population, JG, CC ’14, prefers to minimize his use of college students’ favorite procrastination device.
JG, a French literature major from Washington, DC, made the decision to cut down on his use of technology during his senior year of high school. “I was sort of reevaluating my relationship with technology, and I just decided that I preferred it have a lesser impact on my life,” he said. “I deleted my Facebook at the end of senior year. I just wanted to start afresh and engage myself in other things besides just checking things online.” He hasn’t used an Internet-connected computer since he’s been at college, keeping a small laptop for writing papers tucked out of sight.
The rest of Woodbridge 4G’s decor is fairly minimalistic, including a few French film prints and a painting of 18th-century London acquired at Yale’s museum for British art, but a ROLM phone, prominently displayed on JG’s desk, sticks out. He had the phone installed by Housing after land lines were removed from all Columbia dorm rooms this summer. Although JG owns a Razr phone, which he’s had since eighth grade, he has all calls forwarded to his landline; he described cell phones as “kind of bothersome,” saying he prefers “to have a nice conversation with someone without the thing interrupting me about something that I don’t really need.”
The choice to abstain from most forms of modern technology, JG said, arose out of a desire to make his room into a “personal sanctuary, keeping the modern world at bay.” Although he keeps up on current events by reading the New York Times daily, he said he wanted to be able “to come home at the end of the day and not have to deal with whatever there may be out there. I don’t know how you call it—crises or developing situations.”
Without the distraction of Facebook, he devotes his free time to some impressively productive activities, including cooking and—gasp!—pleasure reading. He’s currently on the final volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and describes himself as a “religious” reader of The New Yorker; there are a few copies placed on top of his dresser, next to a radio he purchased from the MoMA design store. And since he’s not distracted by the Internet, JG prefers to study in his room instead of making the trek over to Butler.
When asked if he ever felt out of touch with other college students, JG said he generally felt in touch with pop culture. “There are a few things,” he said. “I guess in texting now, people use a hashtag to indicate that they’re going to do something or that they support something. So one time someone did that to me and I had to ask for more information. But I think I’m mostly in touch with these things, kind of peripherally so.”
Ultimately, JG said, his peers are generally understanding of his choice to forgo modern technology. “They kind of think of me as, I don’t know, like a romantic, living in the past,” he explained “And I don’t know if I’m living in the past. I just don’t happen to like a lot of the things this century has brought us.”