by Sierra Guardiola
The other day, my professor at Ithaca College put my class up to the challenge of a media fast. He proposed 36 hours free from any influence of mass media. From the get-go he knew we wouldn’t be able to complete the challenge successfully, yet he wanted us to learn from our efforts. We all tried, and undeniably did fail, some of us having a more monastic approach than others to try and complete this fast and come out on top.
I went in thinking this would be easy. I unplug for a week each year while on vacation. Life is simple and I enjoy every moment, free from cell service, WiFi, and the noise of the world. I find this unplug relaxing, refreshing, and much needed since my life is hectic the other 51 weeks of the year. Finding the time, or should I say the desire, to unplug while the rest of the world keeps moving around you is very hard. But the benefits of unplugging can be great. According to an article in The New York Times , the average American spends their day within arm’s reach from their phone, staring at their screen for four hours each day. The article discusses that the cortisol, which affects spikes in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar, released by significant smart phone activity can affect our health and shorten our life span. I knew increased phone activity can affect aspects of our lives like our sleep cycle and our memory but hearing this made me question why I am so glued to my 4.7-inch screen, especially after I spent 36 hours mostly screen-free and significantly happier and productive.
Although the challenge is over, I’ve found that it’s now easier for me to stay unplugged in my day-to-day life. I have a new appreciation for a quiet car ride without music, a calm moment lounging on my couch just relaxing, and the company of my friends without feeling the need to check my phone. During and after the 36-hour challenge, my friends and I have spent almost all of our time on our porch enjoying the beautiful Ithaca weather with the company of our neighbors. This has given us the chance to catch up, to take a true interest in the happenings of our friends’ lives. It has allowed us to make connections that are much deeper than a funny moment posted on a story.
Carrying on this challenge has also encouraged us to be more present in the community we are a part of as well. We have taken the time to explore the area as we wrap up our last fall on South Hill. We’ve spent time hiking state parks, like Buttermilk and Watkins Glen, and perusing stands at the Farmers’ Market to get to know the local businesses in our area. While our activities have been limited so far, being unplugged opens up the chance to connect with your community and participate in events and conversations that you may otherwise miss. There’s so much to see that may be right down the road from you. All it takes is a second to unplug and explore it all.