A one-day media fast: going unplugged—and going nuts


Hannah Jones/Winonan

The other day, much against my better judgment and my general abhorrence for the idea, I swore to give up all forms of electronic media for 24 hours.

It was an assignment for my poetry class. For an entire day, I would be denied access to my phone, my computer, the television, the Internet, my beloved Kindle and even my own car radio.

If it were more complicated and involved more individual components than say, a banana, I would not be allowed to enjoy it until the sun rose the next morning.

No more texts, no more emails and no more cat videos.

The idea was to stimulate some universal, primal spirit within each one of us that languishes under the yoke of our technologically-oriented lifestyles

Or some poetic spirit that still writes with quill pens and runs barefoot through fields of daisies for fun.

Like stars that can only be seen in the absence of electric lights, the muse of my humanity would emerge.

That was the idea, anyway. The reality of the situation went something like this:

The last technological convenience I savored before my fast was my cell phone alarm, which was set to get me out of bed in time for the 5K I intended to run that day.

After that, I shut off my device, and went out the door feeling naked and ill equipped for the outside world.

And, indeed I was, seeing as I couldn’t find the location of the 5K, and I couldn’t call anyone who knew to ask them.

In the end, I reached the meeting point for the race 18 minutes into it, too late to run as I’d planned.

The organizers gave me their condolences and a bottle of water. I grimaced and walked away with my dubious prize, soured.

If this were my humanist muse, then my professor would have to prepare himself for some rather bitter poetry. I didn’t feel any primal human spirit emerging.

What I felt was disappointment and an intense longing to write the mother of all Facebook statuses.

The day continued in much the same fashion. I couldn’t get any writing or research done, because all computers were barred to me.

I couldn’t ask for vital information from friends in the know, because they weren’t in my immediate locus and now couldn’t be reached via text.

I couldn’t even write an angry email to my professor about it. I began to realize just how perfect a trap I had wandered into.

There I was, perfectly frustrated without an outlet or an audience to share my frustration with.

So, the result of this primal humanist stirring in my soul: brooding.

Lots of brooding.

Whether we’re conscious or fond of the fact, our lives revolve around our technology. We are a community of college students—on a laptop campus, no less—who are compelled at every juncture to reach out and speak to the people we cannot reach otherwise with our electronics.

After all, at the end of the day, it wasn’t the TV or the constant stream of Internet memes that I missed: it was the connection to those around me, to my friends, my work and my family back home.

Without my computer, I cannot write the stories and articles that I am inspired to create.

I cannot contact my workplace, where for the first time, I am broadcasting my writing in the form of informative blogs.

I cannot tell my family that I love them, I cannot tell my busy friends that I am cheesed-off; I cannot reach out further than a five-foot radius around my person.

Losing my technology as a college student here at Winona State University was like losing my voice.

Maybe it isn’t as romantic as a quill and pen or scrolls tied to the feet of pigeons, but our technology connects us.

It turns individuals into communities. It turns people living in separate places into families. It turns our world into one big chat room, promoting the free exchange of ideas, art and companionship—even love.

Maybe, after all that, our media-saturated lifestyles aren’t the antithesis of poetic spirit.

Maybe somewhere in that network of connections and friendships, that span the barriers of time and space, there is a poem.
…And yes. It’s nice to have those cat videos, too.

Contact Hannah at [email protected]