The Penultimate Sacrifice: Could You Give Up Your Phone?

Just last month, Professor Justin Walden gave the students of his Survey of Electronic Media and Telecommunications class (Comm 180) an assignment to simply get rid of their cell phones for a week. Speaking to some students in the class, it seemed as though many did not participate in the experiment, but I was intrigued by the idea.

I once had my phone stolen from me during class by mischievous classmates. Normally considered a cheery person, the transformation of my personality without my phone in those 50 minutes was quite remarkable. Not having my phone during that class period felt like being the only sober person on the White Loop on a Friday evening.

So naturally, I thought I could benefit from this experiment, and I braced myself for the week ahead with no access to my outdated Blackberry and all the limited apps it provides.

Sunday Evening: I had to make some preparations. Family members (well, some of them — I forgot to tell my mom. Sorry, Mom, love you!), group project members, and close friends were informed of my situation. I let my phone’s battery drain, and buried it neatly inside a drawer, not to be accessed for the next 7 days. My roommate graciously let me borrow her old iPhone to set myself an alarm to wake up in the morning.

Monday: I woke up to a sound I didn’t recognize, and it took me a few beeps longer than I wanted before I figured out how to turn the damn alarm off. Not having my phone sped up my morning routine, though I kept reaching into my pocket to tweet something. Muscle memory: can’t live with it, can’t live without it, can ya? On the walk to class, I was about to go into Starbucks to grab a free drink from an online coupon, when I realized oh…that’s saved in the Blackberry. Caffeine-deprived, I twitched with discomfort throughout class.

Tuesday: There was something missing in my life. My coat pocket was empty, and the feeling was similar to the discomfort felt when you forget to wear the wristwatch you wear every single day. During class, I had highly intellectual ideas to tweet out, but phoneless, those ideas were lost and forgotten. When I had access to a computer, many of my friends decided to reach me via Facebook chat, which I rarely use. Adjustments, adjustments. (I don’t do well with adjustments.) As another consequence of not having a phone, I found myself more reliant on the internet, AKA a farewell to productivity.

Wednesday: I REALLY wanted to access Onward State to catch up on some high quality reading. Unfortunately, I had to delay this activity until after classes when I got back to my apartment. Later that night when I was working in a computer lab, my roommate tweeted me saying the showerhead broke. I didn’t have a phone to call customer service. Not a good situation for anyone here.

Thursday: Thankfully, the showerhead was fixed early in the morning. On another note, you know when you’re walking around campus and you spot someone about 50 feet away who you can’t decide whether or not you should say hi to, so you pull out your phone and pretend you’re texting? That is a privilege I took for granted. Lots of awkward hellos, and don’t even get me started on the elevator rides.

Friday: To throw in another game changer to my already strange week, my Friday consisted of waking up at 5:59AM (I like to set alarms to prime numbers) to catch a bus for a day long field trip. Meeting up with friends on a normal weekend when they’re drunk is already a pain in the ass, so I was quite nervous about what lie ahead for my Friday evening. Thankfully for the wi-fi on the bus ride home, I used Facebook to set up plans. I met up with friends upon my arrival back in Happy Valley and had quite the enjoyable night. I also observed that an iPhone 4s will lose about 10% of its battery per day if you only use it for an alarm clock.

Saturday: Phoneless and overwhelmed with schoolwork, I opted out of binge drinking and worked on projects and studied instead. I remember my mom once telling my grandmother that if she doesn’t put in her hearing aids, people are going to slowly stop talking to her, and she’ll eventually lose all communication with others. This may be a stretch, but not having a phone is a solid cut-off from society, and I am turning into my sweet grandma. One day more!

Sunday: Because of my clutch decision to restrain from drinking festivities the night before, I woke up refreshed and optimistic that soon enough my phone will be back in my hands. Although I almost forgot to meet up with my best friend who stopped into State College for dinner, the day went relatively swimmingly. Since I went to bed around 11 p.m. the Sunday before, I planned on reuniting with my phone around 11 p.m. to make sure it was truly a weeklong experience. However, it was well past 1 a.m. when I finally arrived back at my apartment from working on a group project. I wasn’t phased, though. An extra two hours doesn’t seem like a long time when you haven’t touched a phone in over a week.

The Great Reunion: I took the Blackberry out of the dresser, and pressed down on the power button. It wouldn’t turn on. Panic. I had to wake up in a little over four hours for my 8 a.m. class. There was a new battery-charging symbol staring at me from the little black screen. WTF it’s only been a week and it already started changing on me. It took seven tries over a span of two HOURS for my phone to turn on. It took an additional 11 minutes for all my messages, Facebook notifications, twitter interactions, and voicemails to go through. I realized my twitter app broke, and I was devastated.

So now that I have my phone back, I’m grateful that I can access social media, set reminders, and text my friends from a handheld device. That being said, you know that scene in Toy Story 2 where Jessie the Cowgirl gets shafted by her owner Emily when Emily becomes a total bitch and leaves Jessie for tacky pink makeup? *queue Sarah McLachlan tear-jerker song* That’s what happened to my beloved day planner when my Blackberry came back into my life. Unfortunately for me, my day planner includes everything academically important in my life, and thus I became half as productive within the first few hours of my reunion with my phone.

I used to panic if the battery on my phone was low. I don’t anymore. I also had a professor once tell me that the number of texts sent during class directly correlates to a lower grade in the course. After this week of going phoneless, I could probably live with turning my phone off during class, but would I ever do this experiment again? Helllll to the no, I love Twitter way too much.

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About the Author

Yuka Narisako

Yuka legally immigrated to the United States via airplane in 1996 from the small island nation of Japan. Since then she has migrated throughout the country and now identifies herself as a senior majoring in Architectural Engineering. The Shandygaff is her Happy Place, though she was once kicked out of the establishment after breaking her shoe and screaming “I LOVE DAY DRINKING. I’M HAVING FUN.” Yuka is overly enthusiastic about life in general, but especially Ja Rule, Halloween, and the puffy black vest she purchased from the Gap. You can reach her at [email protected], or through Twitter @yukahontass.

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