Trying to separate a teenager from their phone or tablet is near impossible. We asked four teenagers to try a week without the internet. Only Roisin Sherwood would consider it
When I first told friends and family I was taking part in a week-long digital detox they thought I was mad.
I had gotten a few mixed reactions: Some people thought spending a week with no internet or phone access would be a piece of cake, with some friends boasting, “I spent three weeks in Irish college without a phone”.
Then others said they could never go a week without their beloved iPhone. Personally I did not know what to expect and I had considered backing out a couple of times, but I thought it might be good for me to see what it’s like.
It would be a fairly major challenge as I always have my phone with me. I knew it was going to be a tough week. However, I made some unexpected revelations as I journeyed through my digital-free week:
The first thing that struck me on my first morning away from wifi was how much more time-efficient I was getting ready for school.
On a regular day, I would get up and check any messages I may have missed from the night before and then scroll through my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds.
This would slow me down considerably while I was eating my breakfast and getting dressed for school. I found myself ready to go out the door at least five minutes earlier than usual. I wish I could say the same for my sister who is always running late.
However, I also realised I was slightly resentful towards anyone I saw using a phone. I know that sounds ridiculous but after only being away from my phone for a couple of hours I was already missing it more than I initially thought.
It started with my family and then there were plenty of people in school on their phones before our morning classes. I knew I was in for a long week after just that Monday morning.
Tuesday began the very same as Monday, I was ready to go early and my jealousy towards anyone using a phone was building.
As I arrived to school, I was greeted by a couple of friends excited to tell me about some minor drama I had missed from the previous night.
I didn’t realise it but I really enjoyed hearing all about it. Sometimes I find that we do not have anything interesting to talk about in school because we spend so much of our day talking over messaging apps.
So often we spend a large amount of time talking on Facebook and Whatsapp that when it comes to seeing each other face-to-face we have little to talk about. So that was an unexpected perk to this detox.
By Wednesday I had gotten more used to the idea of not having my phone and thought maybe I don’t need it as much.
That was until I remembered that after school I had both musical rehearsals and sports, and I had not organised any lifts. Usually I would text my friends and it would be sorted out instantly.
It only dawned on me during school that I had completely forgotten about everything I had to do that day. The rest of the day proved to be a little bit stressful. I had managed to get lifts to and from rehearsals by the end of the day.
Then I spent the rest of the day picking up lifts where I could and just about managing to make it to all my activities on time. Wednesday taught me that I have to be a lot more organised in advance to avoid getting stranded somewhere.
Come Thursday I thought I had mastered life without a phone as I’d managed to successfully organise getting down to Dun Laoghaire very early in the morning to get Ed Sheeran tickets. The day was going well, there was a group of us over at a friend’s house after school.
They were all on their phones checking their messages and just generally wasting time scrolling through Facebook and I was just sitting there. It was then I got utterly fed up. I was really annoyed that I couldn’t use my phone. not even for five minutes.
What was worse was knowing I had my phone with me (in case of an emergency) yet I couldn’t use it. All I wanted was a couple of minutes where I could just check to see if anything exciting was happening.
It all just hit me at once and I got a bit overwhelmed. It was then I realised that not having a phone was taking a larger toll that I thought.
As expected, a new day brought a new challenge: An issue I was surprised had not bothered me up until that Friday.
I am an avid TV watcher and enjoy binge-watching hours of online shows. My two favourites are Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds. Both of these air in the US at around 5am Irish time on a Friday.
So I would generally catch up on the latest drama on Friday evenings if I have the time. I found myself very bored that evening as all I wanted to do was see the surgeons of Seattle-Grace Mercy West save another life or the agents from the BAU catch the next psychotic killer.
Not being able to watch my shows would cause such a level of anxiety. Yet again I was left feeling out of the loop. I could just imagine the thousands of tweets reacting to the latest scandals .
My friends, like me, would catch up on these shows too, so I was sure they would all be chatting away about it. By my fifth day phoneless I was so ready to quit, but I knew I would hate myself for giving up with only two days to go.
I knew the weekend was going to be tough as there was probably going to be plans made in various group chats about meeting up with friends. Thankfully my Saturday was very busy with sport.
However, I again ran into the problem of trying to organise lifts. I learned from Wednesday’s stranding incident and had all lifts sorted out on Friday evening.
The day went very smoothly as a result. The only problem I encountered was when people asked me things like, “Did you see what so and so posted”, and I would get annoyed as clearly I hadn’t seen it.
Besides that, Saturday was a relatively good day and I was happy knowing I only had one more day to get through......
It was my final day of feeling like an outsider and I could not have been more excited to get my phone back. All through the week I found there was one problem that was persistent: That was I had no access to music.
I love music and I always have no headphones in if I am going anywhere or just if I am at home. I missed it a lot during the week. I craved hearing the familiar voices of the bands I had come to love. It was possibly the only struggle that I had felt at every moment during the week.
I knew one of the first things I would do was go into my music library and just let it play. And that’s exactly what I did the following Monday evening.
My technology-free week had finally come to a close and I could not have been happier. Though I saw some advantages to taking a step back from the online world, the cons greatly outweighed the pros and I can tell you I would never be able to commit to living life without my phone or internet access.
Alongside the impractical issues that would ensue, I also felt like an outsider. I was paranoid that I was missing out on big plans with friends, as well as a lot of fun conversation.
It was one tough week, but I don’t regret doing it one bit.
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