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Opinion: Going without cellphone, Internet for 24 hours worthwhile but difficult

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Photo illustration by Mark Batke / Photo editor

Photo illustration by Mark Batke / Photo editor

It was 1,440 minutes.

I went 1,440 minutes without a cellphone, Internet access, television or radio.

That’s two seasons of the Netflix series House of Cards. In the time span that I went without a cellphone, Frank Underwood went from being a senator to ­— well, I won’t spoil the surprise.

Sixty percent of college students said they might be addicted to their cellphones, according to a research study done by Baylor University. I am a part of that 60 percent.

That same study said some students felt agitated when their phone was not in sight.

I was agitated for 24 hours.

Ninety-three percent of college students had cellphones as of January, according to a Pew Research Center Project. So I know at least 93 percent of you, whether you believe you are addicted or not, can imagine what it would feel like without your cellphone.

People kept asking me “How is it?” The answer is dramatic, so if you are easily annoyed, stop reading now, but if you are as addicted to your phone as 60 percent of college students are, then please read on.

Amputees often describe still being able to feel their lost limbs. They describe the sensation as ghost limbs — remember how I said this was dramatic — and that’s how I felt without my phone.

You are rolling your eyes right now, I know that, but hear me out.

I am a 21-year-old who has had a cellphone since the fourth grade. I cannot remember a time that I didn’t have my phone somewhere near me. I kept reaching into my bag for it, I even freaked out for a second because I couldn’t find it. I would walk into my room and immediately go toward my charger to plug in my phone, because God forbid my phone die during the day.

My phone is an extension of me, another limb.

By 2:30 p.m., 14.5 hours into my cellphone/Internet cleanse, I was yelling at my roommate for asking me if I had seen her Snapchat story.

By 6 p.m., I was sure I would never make it all the way to midnight.

I wanted to text my friends, my parents, even the random kid from my high school I had maybe talked to once yet I still had his number. I just wanted to text, and check Instagram, and Snapchat ugly photos of myself to all my roommates.

Being without my phone was annoying, but being without the Internet was cruel.

Like most college students, I rely on social media to inform me about what is going on in the world. I woke up without any access to knowledge of the day’s events.

I could not tell you whether Carmen was back up or not, if there was a new case of the Ebola virus in the U.S, or even if I needed to wear a heavy or light jacket to class.

As usual in my college caffeine-riddled days, I headed to Starbucks to make my day a little bit better, and that’s where I spotted it.

The newspaper. The exotic endangered breed of information.

This was it — the newspaper was going to inform me and make me feel so much better.

As I reached for the paper, I realized there was a price next to it: $2.

It was $2 for day-old information? I was flabbergasted. No way would I pay $2 for less information than I could get on my phone for free. (Mind you, I was in line for my $4.15 coffee.)

People have a lot of negative things to say about the Internet and cellphones, that they are making us dumb. But I disagree. I don’t believe there has ever been a generation more aware of the world around it than ours.

Our generation has started movements with our phones and the Internet. Take, for example, what happened in Hong Kong only last month. Students hit the streets to protest Chinese government control after the government began backpedaling on allowing Hong Kong to elect its own leader in 2017.

These were students our age, with the power of media on their side, that stood up to one of the most powerful governments in the world.

But while I believe that cellphones and the Internet are critical to our generation, I will admit there are benefits to going without.

I have never been more attuned to my surroundings than I was during those 24 hours; I noticed that the guy behind me in the Starbucks line does not know the definition of personal space and that High Street is not as loud as I once thought it was.

But most importantly, I noticed just how dependent my peers are on their cellphones.

I counted, and the longest I went without seeing someone on his or her phone was four seconds.

It made me realize that our generation’s problem is not that we use smartphones — it’s that we don’t know how to balance our phone usage with the outside world.

So here is my plea. Please put down your phones every once in a while, not for 24 hours because honestly that sucked, but just for a meal or a few hours with friends.

I promise your phone, and all of its information, will be there when you get back.

On a lighter note, if you are planning on going 24 hours without a cellphone, invest in a watch. I have never been so late so many times as I was in that one day.

5 comments

  1. Life is hard.

  2. I never left the suburbs

  3. And also put down the phones when walking. Especially when crossing the street. PAY ATTENTION. And pay attention to your surroundings when walking on campus, ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT. Too much crime, you need to be able to know and HEAR who’s around you. Also, next time you go out to dinner with friends, do this: Put all your cell phones in the center of the table. The first one to pick up their phone, pays the tab. THAT’LL keep you from using them when you should be enjoying spending time with friends.

  4. People who spend all their time on their cell phones are very boring. No one wants to talk to someone or sit across the table for them if all they’re going to do is scroll through their phones.

  5. I challenge my high school students to do this each year -especially around the holidays. Even we non-digital natives have a hard time. The rewards of being in the moment are often extremely gratifying. Great article and as I just laid down this extra credit opportunity, I will be sharing your story with these students as prep!

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