Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Movement urges break from technology

by on April 05, 2015 1:59 AM

According to a survey, 63 percent of 1,000 surveyed Americans have a smartphone, and 21 percent of those surveyed say they “have an addiction.”

EsctheMachine is a locally created initiative that aims to break computer and smartphone addiction.

“EsctheMachine is a call to action to bring awareness to overuse of the computer,” said the movement’s founder, Dr. Luis Almeida, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor of communications media.

According to Almeida, the movement’s mission is to encourage a break from using technology and instead promoting human interaction, conversation and community involvement.

About a year ago, Almeida called to the attention of the Indiana community the importance of the National Day of Unplugging — a 24-hour period that carves out one day to unwind, relax and connect with loved ones — without technology.

In a presentation at Indiana University of Pennsylvania promoting that day in March of 2014, Almeida explained that society has “become numb” to the effects that technology has. He cited the Human Robot Hypothesis, which says that “the more a subject interacts with a computerized device, the more computer-like behaviors a subject acquires and displays over time without realizing it.”

Almeida still emphasizes the importance of the theory, saying that, though the goal of the initiative is not to call for absolutely no use of computers, people should be aware that there is a “dark side” to constant computing.

A report on BetterHealth. gov explains that overuse of a computer can cause back, neck and shoulder pain as well as eyestrain. In addition, it states that excessive computer use is linked to obesity and other health problems.

And it’s a report that Almeida can relate to.

“I got sick,” he said. “I was working like a maniac, was on the computer for 15, 16 hours a day, and I started realizing that that’s just not healthy.

“We’re so connected that (overuse) can cause elements of anxiety,” he said.

A study reported by showed that the Fear of Missing Out, or “Fomo” — a word added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013 — is often linked to social media use. It says that while constantly scanning updates on social networks, a person can start to experience feelings of personal disconnection and dissatisfaction, starting to compare and evaluate their own life based on how others’ portray their own.

Locally, the EsctheMachine movement has hit hard on the IUP campus, with many students pledging on Twitter their plan to take the time to disconnect. In addition, Almeida has approached community members about the initiative.

And the movement, he said, could have great effect on the local economy.

“Rather than buying a product on Amazon, go downtown … support locally (owned businesses).”

He said that EsctheMachine is “a movement that will support getting away from the computer and getting into the community.”

And the movement is growing.

Almeida recently spoke in Manhattan on behalf of the initiative, and said that he has plans for it to span internationally.

“It’s going to grow,” he said. “It’s a big dream, but in the age of social media, where we have the opportunity to make things go global, that is the goal.”

To keep up with the initiative, updates are posted on Twitter, @EsctheMachine, and on Facebook by searching EsctheMachine.

PHOTO: David Ferguson, assistant dean of the  College of Fine Arts at IUP, left, and Michael Hood, dean, center, took the pledge recently with Luis Almeida. (Submitted photo) 

Ellen Matis is the digital media coordinator and a staff writer at The Indiana Gazette. She is the person behind the Gazette's social media. A 2012 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Ellen has a degree in journalism and public relations. Follow her on Twitter, @EllenMatis, or email her at
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