By David Franklin
On November 12, 2018, at 12 A.M. on the dot, I began one of the world’s most daunting tasks: An entire 24 hours without media. To be disconnected from the world may seem like a fairly easy thing to do and for me, it was difficult but not as difficult as I expected (maybe I’m telling a white lie here). For someone like me who leads a rather mundane life, not being able to have a lifeline to anything other than what goes on around me is weird. It’s just like Marshall McLuhan said, media is an extension of man and for me, my smartphone might as well be my hand. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how my ancestors were able to make sense of anything without a smart device. T.V. doesn’t even feel like it would cover all bases. The entire day, I was out of rhythm and was just waiting for tomorrow to come so I could immerse myself back into the digital world.
Before I went to bed, I shut off my phone and made sure I was tired so that I wouldn’t get the urge to turn it back on. 6 hours later, at around 6 A.M. I found myself reaching over to my nightstand to check the time on my phone. I press the power button, and as soon as I see that there’s no response, I remembered that I was to go without it the entire day. So, at this point, I realized that I had to do as the prehistoric ones did: get out of bed and check the clock on the stove. It read 6:45. I go back to my room to try to go back to sleep for at least another hour. At this point in the morning, I usually check Twitter for about an hour to see what’s going on before I get ready for class. It’s basically my newspaper. Without it though, I felt as if I was left out of an elite group in society while being laughed at in secret. I realized after about 30 minutes (which was only like 5) that I couldn’t go back to sleep, and that I was bored out of my mind without a phone in my right hand. I started looking around my room and decided that I would spruce the place up until it was time for me to get ready for class. I dusted, reorganized, and threw anything that looked like trash in my room. This carried on for about an hour. After I finished and gave my room one more look over, I went back in the kitchen to see that the clock read 7 A.M. I thought to myself “How in the hell is time to move this slow? If I would’ve been on that damn phone, it would probably be 8:30 or something!” At this point, my mother woke up and began to make herself breakfast. She usually cooks and watches Good Morning America. While she was cooking, I could hear the T.V. from my room and tried my best to make it background noise as I laid in bed waiting for some more time to pass before I got ready for class. About every 10 minutes, I got up to check the time because I’d said that I would get ready at nine. The first time I checked, only one minute had gone by. The second time, another minute. This went on for about 30 (3 more) minutes until I looked around my room to find something to do until 9 A.M. I decided to clean a few pairs of my sneakers. This went on for what felt like an hour. Four clean pairs of shoes later, I check the clock on the stove. It now reads 7:15. At this point, I felt as if I was stuck in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber that’s in the Dragon Ball series. I kept saying to myself “No way. You’ve got to be kidding me, man!” After that, I asked my mother if she could set a timer to go off every 20 minutes on her phone until 9 A.M. rolled around. She gave me a funny look because I had yet to explain to her what I was doing, but after I did, she agreed.
9 A.M. rolls around (like 2 weeks later) and I began to get ready. After I showered and got, I realized that I had run out of body wash. I said to myself that I would run and get some after my class was over. About 15 minutes before I left the house, it occurred to me that I was low on gas and wouldn’t have time before I needed to make it to class. So, like any other broke college student living at home, I asked my mom if I could drive her car. She said yes, and without even realizing it, I unlocked her phone and used the remote start app on her phone to warm the car up. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I let out a panicked gasp and put the phone down slowly. I counted this as my first strike of the day. I let the car warm up for about 10 minutes and finally got in. The first thing I did before backing out of the driveway was making sure that the radio was off. I almost never use the radio anyway, I connect my phone via Bluetooth and play music from there. The 30-minute ride to school was odd. I listened to the road and paid attention to how the car sounded when it rolled over little bumps, or how smooth it sounded when I was driving on a piece of road that wasn’t laden with those famous Chicagoland potholes. After I arrive at school, I walked through the parking lot with only the sound of the wind passing through my ears. I usually put my earbuds in during the walk from the lot to the classroom, so even that walk felt a tad longer than usual. As I entered the building and walked to my classroom, I began to get jealous. Why? Because everyone I walked past was on their phones while I had to enjoy the great sound of silence. I get to class, get my education and remember that I said I would go to the store to get more body wash. I drive back home, and before I get there to make a stop at my local Walgreen’s. I pick up my favorite, Dove pomegranate scented body wash and proceed to go to the checkout lane. The clerk rings me up and gives me my total. At this point, I reach in my pocket and grab for my phone only to realize I left it at home. Now, in this situation, you might think “What does your phone have to do with buying something?” Well, for me, I use Samsung Pay, a mobile payment app that lets me use my phone to make payments with a virtual copy of my debit card. Because I rely on Samsung Pay to literally pay everywhere, I don’t bring my wallet with me. Embarrassed, I tell the clerk that I can’t pay for the item and leave the store to go home. I realized how much of a toll this was going to take on me. The entire day, I was reaching for my phone like there was something burning in my pocket. I didn’t want to sit in the house bored out of my mind for the next 11 hours, so as soon as I get home, I convince my mother that we should do a little early Thanksgiving ingredient shopping. It took a little persuasion, but she eventually said yes. She got ready, and again, while I was waiting, time just seemed to move at a snail’s pace. She finally gets ready, and we leave for the store. At this point, it’s around 1:30 in the afternoon when we arrive at the store. We go over our list and make our way around the store. I usually like to keep score on how much we spend before we hit the check-out aisle, so I reach for my pocket to grab my phone only to again come to the harsh realization that it’s at home, off, just waiting to be used. I put my head down, sigh, and keep it moving. We were only in the store for about an hour and change, but it felt like 3. We get back home, unload the groceries, and it’s 3:15. I still had 9 hours left of this rigorous task that required I go without media. So, I begin to make dinner. I put a pot of rice on and reach for my phone, so that I can set a timer. Ah. No phone again. To keep myself from forgetting to turn off the rice, I sat in the kitchen silently and watched 15 minutes elapse until it was time to turn the rice off. Each. And. Every. Minute. The saying “A watched pot never boils” never made so much sense to me until now. I make chicken, prepare a plate, and go back to my room to eat in complete silence. Because there was no T.V. on or smartphone to look at while I was eating, I noticed that I was smacking a little, so I tried to chew my food quietly. After cooking dinner, eating, and cleaning, it was around 4 P.M. I decided that I should do a little homework. Homework that would require a laptop. I did well though. The only thing I opened up was Microsoft Word. No Google, no YouTube videos, just Word. So, for the next 2 hours, it was me and a blank Word document that filled up rather quickly. I was impressed at how quick I had gotten my work done. If I were to have my phone, an assignment such as the one I was doing would usually take much longer because I’d be taking “breaks” in between typing. At this point, it was 6:15, and I was left with 5 hours and 45 minutes of nothing do while being wide awake. I turned the light in my room off, got under the covers in my bed and attempted to go to sleep. As I laid there, I had the feeling that I had earlier in the day, FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. It hadn’t even been a full day and yet I felt so out of the loop that when I reconnected with the Internet and my phone, I would be decades behind? Who knows? Elon could’ve gotten that Mars colony thing in gear. The cure for Cancer could’ve been announced. Heck, there might have been a war starting and I wouldn’t have a single clue! A while later, I calmed down and the opening song to the anime SSSS.Gridman, as well as the song No Bystanders by Travis Scott, was stuck in my head. I hummed silently, wrapped up underneath my blankets in the dark, feeling like an asylum patient in one of those old movies. I wanted to listen to these songs so badly on my phone, but since I had come this far without using my phone, I just figured I might as well keep it up. A few hours went by and I felt myself nodding off. I began to hear everyone in my house get in their beds and go to sleep. I decided to get up and check the time on the stove. 11:55 P.M. Time had finally started to get a damn move on! In anticipation for the clock to strike 12 A.M., I stood in front of the stove with my phone and counted down like I was getting ready to yell “Happy New Year!” The clock struck 12, and like a fairytale, I turned the magic device on to be greeted by a graphic that read Samsung Galaxy S8. I had done the impossible. An entire 24 hours without a phone (not including my morning hiccup and homework of course).
To sum the entire experience up, I would have to say that I gained a new respect for people like my grandparents who can go the entire day without using something like a smartphone. For that entire day, I never felt so disconnected from something. It’s amazing how much social media has become an integral part of my daily routine. If I could equate it to a feeling (and I know it’s over exaggerated), it was like being a smoker trying to go from smoking 6 packs a day to quitting cold turkey the next. No waning off it, just up and done without any preparation was very difficult for me. This experience showed to me that almost everyone (especially me) has become so dependent on media that when we are faced with having to go without it, we almost turn into infants unsure of where to go and what to do because we have no one there to hold our hand and guide us through the day. In a sense, it’s dangerous, but at the same time, I feel that it’s dangerous to go without it too. If the consumption of media is done in moderation, then there’s no problem. But for someone like me whose entire day revolves around the consumption of media, it’s a very odd thing to experience. It was like something was missing in my life. To counter that though, I was surprised at how quickly I had gotten through tasks the entire day without the distraction of a phone or T.V. Again, it makes you wonder if it hurts more than it helps. I do believe that people who go without consuming media on the level that I do are missing out on something, but it really isn’t something worth craving if you haven’t been introduced to it. If I took anything away from this experience, it’s that media truly has become a crutch that I can’t function without.