My week without the internet

It's hard to admit that you're a member of the "Facebook generation". A phrase constantly trotted out by the media, it suggests that anyone under the age of 25 spends their days crouched over a laptop, disengaged with reality.

Of course, that's an exaggeration. But once you have access to the internet and social media, it becomes difficult to unplug. With 82% of new university and college students owning a smartphone in the UK, young people use the internet for everything, from research to socialising.

I decided to go a week without internet to see how I'd cope. Would my social life suffer? How would I keep up-to-date with news and trends? And did this mean I'd have to find my real-life calculator?

I began to think of my week "unplugged" as a kind of retreat. In a world saturated with images, we feel a need to document our every action; just recently I caught myself Instagramming my bowl of morning porridge.

As the week progressed I found myself sleeping far better – simply because I wasn't lying in bed for hours double-checking my newsfeed.

Olivia Bright, a student at the University of Southhampton, described her five days without internet during her Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition: "It was actually refreshing, which was something I didn't expect."

However, she also says she "didn't like being out of the loop". And while the week may have provided me an escape from both hypothermia and Kim Kardashian taking 1,200 selfies on holiday, it also proved to be a period of self-imposed social exile.

"Did you get a ticket for that show in freshers' week?" a friend texts me. "Think it's sold out." I hadn't, of course – it had been publicised on a university Facebook page.

I was also unable to Skype a friend studying in India over the summer. While some might complain that the internet renders real-life interaction null and void, for students it's a life-line: family, friends from home and friends on gap years or placements abroad are all just one click away.

It's not just socialising that students rely on the internet for. Alex, a student at the University of Bath, describes the internet as "an integral part of student research".

"I know loads of people who don't even use the (real-life) library," he says. "I'd even say the internet is now more necessary for students, if not now then it will be in a few years."

Alex is right: essay-submission facilities are becoming increasingly web-based, and lecturers and tutors now communicate with us through email rather than scraps of paper shoved in pigeon-holes.

I struggled with some of my set holiday reading without resources such as SparkNotes and JSTOR. Older relatives are always telling me how lucky our generation is; while I love stumbling across a book perfect for an upcoming essay, the internet allows us to condense hours of research in the library into minutes with just a few Google searches.

Did I reach any conclusions during my week without internet? Yes – as a student, it's virtually impossible to go without internet for a significant period of time. Not only do you miss out on social events, but your work suffers too. However, I'd also recommend logging off occasionally; even if just for a day or two.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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