My MJS lecturer encouraged us all to take part in a global experiment called Unplugged, to last 24 hours without any form of media. Phones, iPods, radio, computers and newspapers were all out of the question. We had to write up how we found it afterwards. Here’s what I said.
Going without media for 24 hours didn’t seem like it was going to be too hard. As a student, a substantial part of that was going to be spent sleeping, and of course you don’t need any technology to help you with that. Getting up, on the other hand, required the use of a proper alarm clock rather than my mobile phone.
I started my 24 hours at 7pm on Tuesday evening, when I left my flat to go to a live music gig with a couple of friends. As soon as I met up with them, I turned my phone off and spent the evening listening to guitars and drums rather than my iPod. I noticed how much more sociable I could be in public when I didn’t have to worry about responding to texts in the middle of conversations, and there was nothing to distract me from the live music.
Once I got back to my flat, instead of loading up my laptop and posting a Facebook comment on how much I enjoyed myself that evening, I simply made myself a drink and went straight to bed, getting more sleep than I would have otherwise had. By the time I woke for my lectures at 7.30am, I was over halfway through the experiment.
It was when I got to uni that I struggled to avoid the media. Although I missed listening to the radio while getting ready, and my iPod on the bus, I was able to cope, though it did seem a little too quiet for me. Being one of those people who hates complete silence, I just tuned in to listening to other people’s conversations on the bus instead. At the university, though, a lot of my classes are in the media school, which, among other things, has four large televisions showing different news channels constantly. Thankfully, the day I selected to do Unplugged meant I didn’t actually have to go into the building.
In my first lecture, we were taught with the aid of a Powerpoint presentation. I made my notes with paper and pen, which I do anyway, but it was tough seeing other people using their laptops (and getting distracted) and knowing I couldn’t just go on mine. We watched a short television clip, which although broke my time of going without media, I couldn’t exactly walk out of the lecture, as it was obviously being shown for a reason. It demonstrated to me quite how much technology has become a learning tool, in that I couldn’t sit through a two hour lecture without it being constantly in my face.
During the break between my lecture and my seminar, I went to the library to do some work. Instead of going on the computer to find what book I needed, I had to go to each floor to work out which one had the books I needed (second floor, so lots of walking) and find which ones were relevant through reading the blurb and contents pages. It took a while, but eventually I left the library with three books in my bag.
During my shorthand seminar, we didn’t use any technology, as the very principle of it is learning to take notes. My lecturer did tell off a few people for using their phones in class, which made me automatically move my hand to my pocket, only to remember I didn’t have it with me.
I made conversation on the bus on the way home to pass the time, and once I’d made myself lunch, I realised I only had four hours left of the experiment. They were the toughest, as once I was in my room, I was tempted to put my radio on while I studied, like I usually do. I really didn’t like the silence, so I gave up studying and started playing my ukulele for a while. I made progress with learning the chords, but it didn’t help that I wasn’t actually doing any university work, so I had a look through my notebook to see which assignments I could actually do.
It turned out that, short of copying up my lecture notes from earlier, there was nothing I could do that didn’t require me loading up my laptop or making a phone call to arrange an interview. Instead, I decided to start tidying my room, but without the background music, I found myself in silence again. Needing to get out of the flat and hear something, I went to Asdas, and had to deliberately not look at the newspapers and magazines on the rack as I went in. There was advertising everywhere, which I tried my hardest to avoid, but it was impossible to completely ignore it. By the time I got back, it was six o’clock, so I cooked myself an early meal to pass the last hour, and once I’d eaten and washed up, it was seven and I could go back to my technology.
The experiment made me realise how dependent we actually are on technology, as I had to go out and talk to people to get any form of social interaction, and not rely on phones or the internet. The first thing I did was turn on my music, and once my laptop was loaded, I visited the BBC news page to see what I’d missed in my day of isolation from society. The breaking news of the spending review had bypassed me completely, and made me wonder how I’d have reacted had a major disaster like the London bombings had occurred on my technology-free day. I think I would have heard through word of mouth, and having family back in London, would have to have broken my ban and made a phone call to see if they were safe while checking the news coverage online. Thankfully, no such thing had happened, but it certainly made me think.
I did find a day without technology tough, but I would definitely repeat it, just because it made me aware of how dependant we are on it. Other people around me using phones and computers made it harder; if it was everyone in the same situation it probably would have been easier as you could see how others reacted and dealt with it. Since the experiment I will try not to be so reliant on technology, although I do still need my music. That’s one thing I think I will struggle to ever give up.