A ‘digital diet’

By Josh Beck

Technology has become an integral part of our every day lives. It can be hard to study without easy access to the internet as universities become more digitally inclined and it’s rare for most students not to have a piece of technology on them at all times.

In the first week of semester break the editor of Massive Magazine mentioned the idea of a “digital diet” for a story. This would mean giving up technology for three days, then writing about my experience. My initial reaction was to desperately reach for my phone and place my hand protectively over it. The idea of three days without my phone struck fear into my fragile millennial heart. With some trepidation, though, I accepted the challenge.

Things got off to a bad start before they’d even begun. I convinced myself that the first day didn’t officially start until I woke up, so that night I was awake until three in the morning watching Ghost Whisperer. The antique shop Melinda owns started to look like a scary insight into my next few days. When I woke up I had watched three YouTube videos before realising I’d already pathetically failed my diet. So, the next day I started fresh and took it more seriously this time.

I’ll start off by talking about sleeping because it was the worst part of the whole ordeal. My sleep routine is already fucked in a major way. At night I have to watch something monotonous on my laptop to lull myself to sleep (I promise that’s the only reason I’ve watched a whole season of Beyblades on Netflix). With nothing but my thoughts to distract me I lay awake for four hours the first night and three hours the second. Chucking on Netflix the minute it turned midnight on the final night felt a little bit like cheating. I felt absolutely no remorse for doing it though; I desperately needed my beauty sleep.

The second hardest thing was keeping myself entertained. When I was younger I could happily read for days on end. These days, with short YouTube videos as my main form of entertainment, my attention span doesn’t allow for that kind of dedication. With very few alternatives available, however, I trucked on and read most of Stephen King’s It, which had been sitting on my bookshelf untouched for years.

I can tell you now that my flatmates definitely enjoyed me undertaking this “diet” far more than I did. Over the three days I ended up becoming more intimate with their diets, as I meticulously cleaned the kitchen, as well as the rest of our flat, out of sheer boredom. It turns out when you don’t have the boundless limits of the internet as a distraction, you can be quite productive.

This does lead me onto something I wasn’t expecting – I literally got no university work done. Nourishment of the mind clearly wasn’t an advantage I received from this particular diet. I had hoped writing this story would force me into doing all the work I’d been putting off for weeks. Turns out, technology or not, I’m still a complete shit of a student. It really sucks no longer being able to blame my poor work ethic on the high demands of living in a digital age.

Something else I realised about myself throughout this journey is I fill almost every quiet part of my day with music. Whether it’s taking a shower, making dinner or getting changed, I’ll always chuck a song on, even if just for a minute. Lady Gaga releasing a new song two days before my digital diet felt like a planned personal attack. By the end of the three days I’d have been happy to have Friday by Rebecca Black playing on repeat, rather than being left alone with only my thoughts to keep me company.

Something that wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be was being isolated from social media. I think of Facebook as an unfortunately necessary stain on my life, so it was actually a big relief to have no obligation to use it. Although I get most of my news from Twitter and I felt a little bit bad for not knowing what was happening in the world, I can’t tell you how nice it was to be free of the barrage of Donald Trump news that constantly floods my timeline.

After this experience I feel absolutely no desire to put myself through such primitive hell ever again. I am a proud child of the future. Give me a laptop to kill Sims on and a phone to catch Pokemon on and I’m a happy boy, even if it means my bathroom doesn’t get cleaned quite as often as it should.

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