It’s Sunday morning, 10 a.m.
Before I can even bring myself to open my eyes, my hands are involuntarily searching for my phone under my pillow for my wake up ritual of sifting through every notification and catching up on every post I missed on all of my social media apps. I find my phone eventually, but when I click the home button, the screen stays black. Suddenly, I remember that I let it die on purpose the night before for my media blackout. I was planning ahead for my compulsory attachment to my phone and its way of keeping me engrossed for extended periods of time, seemingly without my realization. I toss my phone into my desk drawer and get ready for the day without my phone, laptop, TV and basically everything with a screen. Media blackout, let’s get into it.
There are many major differences that I took note of during my time with no technology, but what stood out to me immediately was the stark sound of nothing: quiet. Normally, I would score my daily life with the sounds of my plethora of Spotify playlists; my music acts as a soundtrack to any activity, setting the mood or enhancing it. With my phone tucked away in my desk and my laptop zipped in my backpack, I realized that I wouldn’t have any background noise, and I was left alone with my thoughts and my own singing voice. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get Fergie’s 2006 hit “Fergalicous” out of my head for the life of me. Here’s a refresher of that classic hit. Listen along and empathize with my anguish:
Fergie stuck with me almost the entire day, until she was replaced with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Why Don’t You Write Me.” I guess I can score my days without any help from Spotify; there’s just an uncontrollable repeat function on my brain.
Something else I noticed, the best part of it all, was that the dialogue going on in my mind was much more active than before. My internal narrative wasn’t simply the words I read on my social media apps, but a creative voice from within. I had conversations with myself, and new thoughts came to mind in this way. I suddenly had more ideas than I felt I’d had in months; my ingenuity was overflowing, and I deemed myself worthy of creating the most innovative and original content. My confidence in myself and my creative ability had returned.
Despite my re-found self assurance, I felt a looming anxiety throughout the day. What information was I missing out on? Breaking news, important emails from my professors, maybe even a new meme that I would be late to grasp? (Side note: I still don’t completely understand the Arthur’s fist meme. Maybe I would if I were on Twitter on Sunday 😉 )
All of the above, and then some? Worrying that my parents would be desperately trying to contact me in case of some sort of emergency, I plugged my phone in and checked. There was nothing but meaningless notifications. My tension was futile, after all; it was separation anxiety disguised as angst.
It’s Monday morning, 10 a.m.
The media blackout is officially done-z0. I was awake before 10, so I reveled in the last moments of phone vacation before I willingly brought myself back to the bottomless void that is social media.
An immediate change that I realized is just how much time I waste on my phone and laptop. Before the media blackout, I was aware that I would sometimes aimlessly scroll through timelines when I was bored, but after 24 hours of being consciously aware of my attachment, I recognized my habit of resorting to my phone in any moment of free time. I recognized my addiction to my phone and its way of helping me cope with life. I felt kind of like this girl on Dr. Phil:
Let me elaborate. When I’m alone, my phone helps me cope by keeping me from reflecting on many things in my head. It’s like a buffer that distracts my mind from thinking about things that may upset me. When I’m in public, it helps me cope with social anxiety. At a social gathering with many new people, I can look busy on my phone and avoid having to make small talk with strangers, or I can avoid talking to acquaintances around campus by scrolling through Facebook and acting like I don’t see them. I’m definitely not proud of the fact that I do this, but I don’t think that I am alone. These realizations were harsh, and I intend to consciously make a change in that behavior.
In addition to using my phone as a coping mechanism, I also became aware of it as an aid to any symptoms of boredom. The day after my creative re-invigoration, I found myself frivolously scrolling once again; the imaginative and intelligent conversations with myself were gone, replaced with BuzzFeed headlines and the captions of NowThis videos, similar to this riveting content:
All in all, the lesson learned was that media helps me tune out, but almost always in excess. It may help keep my mind off of difficult thoughts, but it also stunts my creativity. It may be a quick fix for boredom, but it keeps me from being more productive with my time. Media is fun, informative, and pretty much necessary in modern life, but it should be used in conscious moderation, for your own good.
Thanks for reading! Now take a break from your phone or laptop (you may need some time to recover from that Kardashian video), and be alone with your thoughts. It’s more beneficial than you may realize!