by Chris Walsh

Mission Statement

For this week I will give up the following things that modern students rely on:

  1. Facebook

  2. Twitter

  3. Youtube

  4. Google (try and stay away from the internet as much as possible)

  5. Smartphones

I’ve discovered, through surveying my housemates at university (who are quite a diverse bunch), that these are the things our generation relies on the most. I know that I do. So, I will not be using them for a week and I will write a diary of my experience. All I can say is, I’m likely to read a lot of books and get a lot of work done.

Day 1 [18/02/13]

Usually, to remove my phone from my hand it would take some sort of major surgery. I am not happy that I chose this project and am regretting it in many ways. But, if it makes for interesting reading, I am willing to give it a go.

The first thing I had to do today was buy a cheap phone that I could keep on my person, just in case there was an emergency within my family, with my girlfriend (she can be a bit crazy) or with my house. So I ventured into Winchester town centre with a friend of mine, who delights in the pain this experience will cause me. I was under the impression that I would probably have to spend about £25 on a new phone. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could buy a new phone for £3. Technology this wonderful and life changing should, in my opinion, not cost the same as a pint! Considering that when this technology was released in 1985 it cost £300 (upwards of £1000, taking inflation rates into account), I find it crazy that it has become so cheap and disposable.

I realised how much we rely on our phones. When our lecturer asked what the time was today, I would say about 70% of the students in the room proceeded to take phones out of their pockets to check. No one wears watches anymore! I also found myself caught in an awkward situation where I engaged someone in conversation and then didn’t actually have much to say to them. You can usually get out of these kinds of situations by pretending that something interesting is happening with your phone. Smiling awkwardly, while shuffling out of the room, does not make you look nearly as cool.

A question for you; in this new technological culture we have created, if someone doesn’t answer their phone, what is the next best way to contact them? Or in some people’s cases, what is always the best way to contact them? For the last five years of my life, Facebook has been the answer to this quandary and not being able to access it, even to play a silly Marvel game, feels like a death in the family. I constantly use Facebook to send messages to friends, keep up to date with the world, do a little stalking every now and then, and use it to organise events. This struggle to give up Facebook has made me realise quite how much we depend on it.

I want to be able to say that I’ve passed the first hurdle, and that the rest of this week will be easy, but I’m sure that’s not the case. Facebook is my crack, I’m just waiting on the real withdrawal symptoms to begin. I’m not dramatic… Totally not dramatic…

Day 2 [19/02/13]

Hours without Facebook now: 45
Hours spent thinking about Facebook now: I slept for 10 hours so… 35

Although I keep thinking about the fact that I can’t surf the web, today has been relatively easy. I’ve escaped away to my girlfriend’s university house, which means I’ve eliminated the need to update her with my location. It’s actually quite refreshing to have the techno monkey off my back. Although, I do keep thinking about the game that I play and all the virtual money I’m missing out on! But, it’s all for the greater good.

I’ve noticed how my girlfriend shuts down when she is on her phone. I was trying to have a conversation with her when she suddenly disengaged. When I looked back at her, she was checking her Twitter feed. A little bit rude, I think, but I must have done that to people countless times. Also, I’ve lost all contact with the news. I no longer have no idea what is going on with the world around me. Previously I would have just Googled news, checked my phone or scrolled through Facebook or Twitter. As much as people may hate it, you have to admit that Facebook has the ability to spread news faster than any newspaper or website. In fact, I remember that I first heard about Michael Jackson being admitted into hospital from seeing a Facebook status.

Still not had any massive urges to check my smartphone to see if I’ve had any texts, or to see how many Facebook notifications I’ve received, so I must be doing quite well.

Day 3 [20/02/13]

I’ve spent a lot of today worrying that, come midnight on Sunday (when I’m allowed back on my phone and Facebook), I’m going to have no new notifications and no texts or missed calls. What does that say about me as a person? Do other people have these similar worries as well?

Today was another relatively easy day, although I did have a pretty big issue. I finished part of my ECP (I’m building a website) and I became really excited. “Brilliant” I thought. “I can save and publish the site, then put it up on the Creative Writers group on Facebook and start getting feedback!” So, apparently, I’m an idiot. It’s another amazingly simple yet brilliant thing we use Facebook for. I sorely miss this ability to contact people instantly, from both a social point of view and a professional point of view.

I’m dreading tomorrow. Usually, each Thursday, I send out a group Facebook email to organise a meeting for the choir that I run. Without Facebook, and without a phone, I’m not really sure how to do it. I could write invites… But that is an incredible amount of effort. I will use my time tomorrow coming up with a plan. I’m sure I’ll think of something.

One good point about this endeavour though. I’m going to bed earlier and I’m getting a lot more work done. I’ve got a complete draft of my ECP now, and I’m only making edits. So that must be a bonus, right?

Hours without Facebook: 72

Day 4 [21/02/13]

Today was the first day that not having technology was actually hard. As a director of a choir, it’s my job to make sure everyone knows what time we’re rehearsing and where we’re meeting. Turns out that, without the ability to message people instantly, it’s a very hard job to do. I have no idea how anyone managed to organise anything in the past. Maybe people’s memories were better? Maybe people wrote things down with pens and pencils to remind themselves. Anyway, I had the worst turnout for a rehearsal that I have had all semester.

Not only that, but my lack of technological prowess is actually a cause for people to mock me! People joke about what they’ve posted on my Facebook wall. People try and wind me up by making it seem like they were in some emergency situation and tried to call me to help, but got no answer. Not being online makes you a laughing stock, apparently.

As I’ve touched upon in previous entries, the kind of technology that I’ve given up for the week has been completely integrated into schools and universities as well. Because of this, I have discovered the best excuse for not doing preparation work for a lecture since “My dog ate it.” I wouldn’t recommend anyone actually try it; I will be catching up with what I missed as soon as I am able to. But still, I find it incredible that I was able to get away with it. Five years ago, when I was still in secondary school, the most common excuse was, “My printer’s broken” and that never held up. You were asked why you didn’t handwrite it first. But technology is integral now. If you choose not to use it, you might as well not show up to class.

Hours without Facebook: 92

Day 5 [22/02/13]

I swear, I never usually leave the house this much. Today, I proved that you can make plans with people and not have to check with them if they are going to be there, and whether they are going to be on time. I planned to spend the day in Southampton with some friends. We arranged to meet at half past ten and then head off. It was a surprise, and a pleasure, when they all actually showed up and I had a brilliant day out.

That was until I got home. The day before, I was told to be at a pub by three o’clock as it was a friend’s birthday; I showed up and no one was there. I hung around for a little while, but still no one turned up. Annoyed, I headed home. When I got home I found out from my housemate that the times had been changed, and if I was on Facebook I would have seen.

I think that’s what this project is proving to me. We need some kind of cultural shake up where Facebook isn’t the centre of all of our universes. Where, if you’re going to change times and places, you make sure people know rather than just assuming they’ve seen your status.

Hours without Facebook: Might as well be a billion.

Day 6 [23/02/13]

I’m nearly at the end of it all now. By that, I mean this endeavour, not life itself. I’m dramatic but not that dramatic. I want to tell you that I had some major epiphany today, where I decided that I don’t need technology at all, and that from now on I will live in the woods and finish all my assignments by hand. I couldn’t think of anything worse.

Day 7 [24/02/13]

“So how has your week been?” Asked my mum over a roast lunch.

“Long…” I replied. And it has been. As much as I have found the experience to be interesting, it’s also been hard. I’ve come to the conclusion that the culture and generation that I am a part of is not meant to cope without technology. But does that mean this has not been a fruitful endeavour? No, I don’t think it has. I have a newfound appreciation for the technology I once took for granted. Maybe I won’t spend so long on Facebook each day. Maybe I will see if I can go one day a week without it from now on. And maybe I won’t rely on my smartphone and the Internet so much.

“You seem less distracted though,” my dad told me looking up from his roast beef. My mum nodded in agreement. I realised this was the first meal I had had with my parents in a long time where I hadn’t checked my phone. I had just been focused on having a nice meal with them. Maybe I should take that rule away from this. No phones at dinner.

Minutes until I can check Facebook: 23

Two Weeks Later…

What can I say? I tried my hardest to not succumb to the glitz and glamour of technology but I’ve fallen back into old habits. I’m always on my phone, I’m always listening to music, I’m always planning my next technological purchase ( currently a Kindle Fire HD if you must know). I feel cheap and I feel dirty. I came so close to a revolution in a week but the world wasn’t ready to follow me. Maybe it doesn’t have to? I like my phone. I like talking to my friends when I want. Is that so bad?

I’ve kept one promise though. No phones at dinner. Maybe that’s my revolution? It’s revolution enough for me.