The idea of disconnecting from all forms of electronic devices is not a foreign one for me. I have been raised in a Jewish household that observes the Sabbath. This practice includes not using any electronics from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Instead of scrolling through Facebook or binge-watching Westworld I talked and played Monopoly and Bananagrams with family and friends and read quietly. I made the decision, after my Bat- Mitzvah to abandon this practice. This “media blackout” assignment was enjoyably reminiscent for me, although some difficulties did arise. Through this exercise I realized that GPS and Uber are unparalleled inventions upon which I am heavily reliant. This became apparent in hour sixteen of my blackout when I was trying to make my way to LA Live for dinner. What is usually a thirty-minute pleasant stroll or a six minute Uber ride turned into a hectic hour and a half journey with consistent wrong turns and sketchy encounters. When I finally got to dinner all my friends were on their phones, checking Instagram, Snapchat and all the apps that I use all too frequently. At first I instinctively reached for my phone in my back pocket only to remember that it was not there. Throughout the entire blackout I kept thinking I heard my phone buzzing but it was not, I now refer to this as “twenty-first century phantom limb”. At first I felt very out of the loop; my friends were all talking about a new meme or a post that I had not seen. The world moves at light speed and I missed an alarming amount of news while disconnected and felt that I was missing out on a tremendous amount of “social news”. At the same time, it became clear to me that the amount of time I spend clicking though a myriad of personally meaningless Snapchat stories can be far better channeled into things more worthy of my time. In my experiencing of this assignment, I have concluded that disconnecting has both positive and negative aspects. There is no substitute for the technological advantages, even in the most mundane example of relying on my own wits to get to a restaurant. But, this exercise forced me to confront the obvious fact that the distraction of social media is incredibly time-consuming. And, this exercise also served as a wonderful reminder from my childhood, that, while communicating through social media is convenient, there will never be a substitute for extended periods of direct interactions with family and friends
In the twenty-four hours after the blackout I decided I would count the amount of times I check my phone throughout the day. I quickly lost count as I looked at my phone to check the time or to open a Snapchat. There are certain times throughout the day when I always check “essential apps” (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, CNN), specifically right when I wake up and just as I am going to sleep. I also use my phone as a shield when I feel like I am in an uncomfortable or awkward situation. I notice that whenever I feel my phone buzz in my pocket I immediately check it…and usually end up venturing to other apps. In reflecting on my use of social media, I realize that I use Snapchat the most; scrolling though snapchat stories to see what my friends are doing happens more than fifteen times throughout the day( far more than I was prepared to admit to myself) . Some of my apps such as CCN and email send me notifications that make my back pocket buzz when anything of note takes place. This happens approximately seven to times times throughout the day. I am constantly concerned that I may be missing something important whether it be a text from a guy I like, political updates at this momentous moment in American history or a livestream of an unfolding crisis. Although I do use my phone for social media a lot, a decent portion of my activities are related to navigating my life as well as staying on top of what is taking place in the world.