Off the Grid: My Week without Electronics

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Off the Grid: My Week without Electronics

Connor Menzel, Archive editor

As I walked down Main Street of Neshaminy High School on the Monday of April 11, I was stuck. I had no idea what I wanted to write about for my literary non-fiction piece in journalism class and I was running out of time to figure it out. I had already decided that I wanted to do an article similar to one that the journalist AJ Jacobs would write. This most likely meant that I would end up doing a social experiment on myself. As I was caught up in my thoughts, a fellow student bumped into me.

“Oh, sorry,” he said. As I turned around, I found that his eyes were glued to the screen of his smartphone. Could that not wait until you get to your next class? I thought to myself. I was slightly annoyed now, but I continued walking towards my destination.

My eyes slowly began to scan around the hallway, and I began to notice something. The number of students using their cell phones was enormous. It seemed that at least half of the students had their phones in their hands, probably even more. I never really thought of this number before. I was walking through a hurricane caused by the digital age. It was at this point that an idea for my journalism piece jumped into my mind, and it was so obvious that I should have thought of it before. I would try to go a full school week without electronics.

I was so excited to plan this excruciating week that right when I got home, I wrote the rules and regulations for the week down in my notebook. The rules were as follows:

No use of my cell phone will be permitted.
The usage of the Internet or computers in any way other than for school work will not be allowed.
No television will be allowed.
No videogames will be allowed.
I am only allowed to listen to music on a traditional radio.

That Friday, I was eager to tell everyone of my plan to go a week without electronics, and I got different responses from all of them. Some of them had a more positive outlook upon hearing the idea, such as when my best friend, Aaron, said, “Woah… I don’t think I could even go half a day without my cell phone or laptop.”

However, some people looked at the week in a more negative manner, like when another freshman, Ben Blumenfeld, said, “Have fun dying for a week!”

And then the saddest of all was my girlfriend’s response: “Aw, does that mean I won’t be able to talk to you outside of school for an entire week?” I slowly nodded and she became a little upset with the fact that I would willingly choose not text or call her for a week.

But I tried to not let any of these comments phase me. I had to do this for two reasons: for my journalism class and for myself. My brain loves being challenged. Whenever I see, hear, or even think about something that could be difficult, I have to do it. My mom has made fun of my phrase, “Challenge accepted!” many times; I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this.

The time to begin my week came on Sunday, the 17th of April. Right before I went to sleep, I turned my phone off. As my phone screen slowly faded to black, I began to fear what the next day would bring. But without my phone on I fell asleep much faster, although it was still right beside me.

My mom woke me up the next morning, and I instantly reached for my phone before I quickly remembered that I could not use it. I realized that it was a pointless habit to check my phone right when I got up in the morning. The odds that something life-altering happened overnight was very low, so I decided that after this week ended, I wouldn’t check my phone right when I got up anymore.

Other than that, the first morning without electronics was easy to get through. The only thing I had to change was to sit in the dining room while I ate, because I usually eat in the living room and watch TV while I eat breakfast. But instantly I noticed that when I was just talking to my family members in the morning, I had more fun, and I felt more awake than I felt watching TV in the morning.

Surprisingly, school was not as painful as I thought it would be because school keeps me busy for the most part. The only times I reached for my pocket only to find it empty was in the beginning of classes, before my friends got to class.

However, not using a cell phone in these brief periods of boredom tends to make me more observant to the surrounding environment. I began to notice that whenever somebody finished their classwork, their natural instinct was to reach for their phones. I remember one day in school noticing that at the end of class, every single person was on their cell phone except for me.

The real problem with using no electronics is the lethargy at home. All throughout this week, I found myself struggling to find things to do after my homework was finished. I often just ended up talking with my family, going on walks, playing board games or just reading.

Another effect that I noticed was caused by this isolation from social media was the fact that I was becoming less stressed. Somehow, all throughout the week, I found myself relaxing and unwinding more. This got me thinking. Why would I become less stressed when I don’t use electronics?

I was thinking about this for a little while and I realized what it was. In today’s society, there is a constant pressure to stay connected to everybody else. While I was connected to social media, I felt pressured all the time to post, text or call, because that is what the teen society in America views as acceptable.

I found that while I was disconnected, I enjoyed my free time more. However, I do not know if this was a reaction specific only to me, or if this effect would be noticeable in everyone.

Overall, this week without electronics was not nearly as awful as I thought. The hardest part was figuring out what to do with my free time, which I realized was mostly occupied by using electronics before this week. But even that challenge was easily overcome.

I believe that people in society today, especially teenagers, are far too attached to their precious electronics. I challenge those people (they know who they are) to power down their phones just for a single day. If I learned one thing this week, it is that going off the grid is not as bad as it may seem. It’s like jumping into cold water; it will be really shocking at first, but the body begins to get used to it. Anyone who tries going some time without electronics may be surprised when they actually begin to enjoy themselves.