In a society that cannot seem to step away from their screens, the idea of spending a weekend fasting from Internet and texting intrigued me. So in the interest of playing pioneer, I spent 48 hours (Friday night to Sunday night) without texting, screens, or Internet. I let necessary parties know that if they needed to get in touch they would have to call, not text. I chose to leave my phone on in case of an emergency.
Pre-Challenge: I was excited and nervous. My laptop had broken two months before and I hadn’t yet replaced it, so I was feeling confident that I’d gotten in some practice. Self-knowledge told me that I’d be sure to slip up if I didn’t have a plethora of activities planned, so I made a point of filling up my weekend schedule. I took out a book from the library that I’d been intending to read for a while (no Kindle allowed!), unpacked my old art supplies, printed a rather involved recipe for a cake, and set up a lunch date with out-of-town friends.
Friday night: Two hours in, my experiment was rapidly losing its appeal. I started to become irritable and was tempted to watch a movie or see what the blogosphere was up to. I knew it was time to whip out an activity from my bag of magic tricks, so I chose baking. Things were a breeze after finishing the cake, since the rest of the evening was taken up by packing and miscellaneous preparation for my Saturday day trip.
Saturday: My first slip-up occurred. I had to be up and out by 5:30 a.m. in order to arrive at my destination on time, so I bribed myself with a larger-than-usual coffee with an extra espresso shot. Hopped up on caffeine and bored with the prospect of a long, flat road before me, I couldn’t resist texting a friend for an early morning chat. After a few back-and-forths, however, my guilt got the better of me and I stashed the phone, once again hitting the road.
Saturday afternoon was peacefully spent meeting up with old friends. The only time I took out my phone was to redeem points at my favorite coffee joint. Despite my weakness earlier in the day, I was inspired by my general success, and I made it through the rest of the afternoon and night unplugged.
Sunday morning: Sunday was the easiest day of The Unplugged Challenge. I spent most of the day reading, shopping, and sipping coffee (notice a pattern here?), easily keeping busy. The knowledge that it was the last day of The Challenge was in the back of my mind, but the last two days had allowed me to exercise my self-restraint muscles, and my withdrawal symptoms had almost entirely ebbed away.
Post-Challenge: The hardest part of the Challenge was definitely the fight against sheer habit. Waiting in line at the grocery store and not whipping out my phone to check for texts or Facebook updates was surprisingly difficult. A close second was simply the requirement for practical information. The need for directions, questions about which restaurant to head to, and reading up on the latest GenTwenty articles demanded that I rethink my approach to acquiring essential material.
Would I do it again? I already have! Admittedly, for the two days following The Challenge, I fully submerged myself in social media and screen activities. After my “fix” however, I realized how freeing it was to not be controlled by habit and to be able to pursue hobbies or choose face time over Face Time. For the past week and a half I’ve been able to step back and “unplug” more often and more easily than I would have before The Unplugged Challenge.
What about you? Will you try The Unplugged Challenge?