A Week With No Phone

Sophie Mazzei

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For years, the AP Language classes at Pascack Hills undergo a Transcendentalism unit around this time of year. Transcendentalism is a literary and philosophical movement asserting the existence of an ideal spiritual reality that transcends the scientific ideals that one is knowledgeable through intuition. In simpler terms, it is the idea that all beings in the universe are equal to the spirit of God, and nothing is above nature and the spirits around one. Transcendentalists live a simple life, without money, technology, or any materialistic items because they believe that there is more to life than things.

As this unit progresses, Shawn McDonald, the English teacher for this class, told students that there would be an extra credit opportunity to give their phones up for 4 days. This struck immediate fear in my classmates and I. Many of us cannot picture ourselves without our phones, as we use them for every aspect of our lives. Tea Marder, who has an outsider perspective on the topic, as she is not in the class conducting this experiment, said, “I don’t think I would be able to do this. I use my phone for absolutely everything.”

The dreaded day of December 5 came, and in front of me was held a bucket. This bucket already contained several black-screened devices of my classmates, and mine was next. I slide my finger across my screen to power off my phone and tossed it in, thus beginning my week of technological disconnection.

Junior Talia Boyajian said, “I keep reaching for my phone in my pocket but nothing’s there.” Later on, she said that she “picked up [her] friends phone thinking it was [hers], but then [she] realized that [her] phone was locked away.”

Around 6:30 the first night, I still wasn’t able to get over the feeling of wanting to check my phone and realizing it was locked up in a safe at Pascack Hills.

I am not alone in missing a valuable part of my life, as junior Sydnie Keller said, “I feel anxious, nervous, lost, and confused.”

As baffling it is to the generation that came before us, our phones are a big part of our lives. From containing all the alarms that signify when to go to school to the games one plays when they’re bored, there is no task that our phones can’t handle for our basic day-to-day needs. Not having a phone means not having a calendar with important upcoming dates, an instant communication method to stay in touch with friends and family, an updated weather forecast, the time, music, and many other things that are taken for granted when we are constantly checking our phones.

The first morning without a phone rolled around rather painfully, as waking up without an alarm clock is a difficult change. I received an abrupt knock on my door at 6:45 AM by my mother, but ignored it and held onto the few minutes of sleep that I had left. This left me to wake up at 7:15 AM, causing me to arrive at school at a risky 7:56 AM.

We became so used to these luxuries throughout our lives, making this a very difficult transition. Many students in my class are saying that they believe that not having a phone is only making their life more difficult. Contradictory to these statements, junior Abilio Cerdeira says, “I have mixed feelings because its a weight lifted off my shoulders because I can’t procrastinate as much, but having my phone is also something I’ve gotten used to using every day. Now, a simple task is more complicated and not having a phone forces me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do.”

Similar to Cerdeira, many students are feeling that they can get much more work done without the distraction of their phone. Juniors Skylar Bachman and Matthew Wikfors both agree that “[they] feel much more productive, and can find other ways to fill [their] time.” Cerdeira, Bachman, and Wikfors, along with many others, are looking at the positive side of the experiment.

Junior Hanna Kimball agrees with them as she said, “One good part I’ve found so far is that I’m realizing that I really don’t need to use my phone as much as I do. I’m realizing how much I check my phone for no reason, so once I get my phone back I think I’ll be more conscious of that. Another good part is that during lunch my friends and I can just hang out and talk without the distraction of our phones … It’s nice to just spend quality time with them during my day.”

The second school day without my phone was much easier than the first. Although I still thought about wanting to use my phone several times throughout the day, I found myself trying to be more productive to keep my mind off of boredom. I knew that once I became bored, that feeling would lead to the stress of not having my phone on me. This was an incredibly positive outcome since whenever I got bored on a normal day during a Pascack Period, I would sit on my phone and procrastinate, but this experiment eliminated that issue.

I faced my biggest struggles on Thursday. I sat on my bed and stared at my ceiling from 4:30 PM to 8:00 PM. I had no interactions with any of my friends from after school to the time I went to bed. The feeling of loneliness and disconnection consumed my thoughts for the entirety of the day. Due to the lack of activity, I wasn’t tired until very late at night. Needless to say, I was more than excited to get my phone back the next day.

When my phone was pulled out of the bucket it was being held hostage in for the past 4 days, I squealed. I real, genuine, ear-piercing screech of pure happiness and excitement. I never knew how attached I could be to a brick of metal and plastic. I struggled greatly with this task, while others didn’t even realize their phone was taken away. I do not consider myself a materialistic person in the slightest, but I will admit that I would have a very difficult time living without my phone.

The overall experience showed me a smaller scaled version of what it’s like to truly be a transcendentalist. I now know that I would never survive with nothing but nature and the clothes on my back. These people give up everything in a result of their beliefs and live freely with the spirits of the wild, enjoying a peaceful life. Transcendentalists live by nonconformity, as they do exactly as they please and refuse to listen to rules set by other people, as well as society. These ideas are still seen in today’s modern world, in a quote from Steve Jobs that reads, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living anyone else’s life.”

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