The decision was ruled by a few determining factors:
- I was short on money and I don't like buying cheap products that break easily, so I reasoned that I would just wait until I had enough money to buy better quality.
- I liked the challenge of not having something that I use everyday. I was curious to see what I would do if I could not listen to music.
- As already mentioned above, I was scared of how strong my emotional reaction to them breaking was. At the beginning I did not want to admit to myself that I was dependent to headphones, but I subconsciously I knew that that was the reason behind my emotions.
I learned a lot about myself in the past month. I also learned a lot about societies (or at least my generations) opinion on technology.
Let's stat with the latter. I stated telling some friends about this experiment. Their reactions were all quite similar:
I could never do that. I like music way to much
Why would you do that?
I wouldn't know what to do with myself while commuting.
Those are just a few examples. Only one person in my age group told me that they thought it was a good idea. A few others could not understand why I was making such a fuss about it, since they rarely use headphones.
Overall their reaction stood in a shocking difference to the reactions of the older people I spoke to. My parents, older friends and other relatives all thought that it was so good for me to "distance myself from technology and live more in the present".
Safe to say there were mixed reviews on what I was doing. I was very torn on the subject and I still am. One the one hand I love all the opportunities that technology gives me. I love being connected. On the other hand I also believe that, to much of a good thing can be bad. Especially in my case. I spend a lot of time on my phone, on social media in particular. This often gets in the way of my productivity as I find it hard to stop.
I would have never thought, that abstaining from headphones would have any effect on my phone using habits, but it did.
In the first few days of not having headphones, I had this constant itch to shut out the world around me (I found out that that was why I was using headphones and music for). I was stressed and overwhelmed by all the action and the sounds around me. I was extremely bored on my train rides and kept refreshing twitter over and over. I also noticed that I did not know where to put my phone. Usually it would be in my hands or in my lap, so that I could control the music I was listening to. But without the music, it was just annoying. It felt like the phone kind of lost its purpose.
I tried to put the phone in my backpocket, it annoyed me sitting down. I tried putting it in my frontpocket, there it wouldn't fit (thanks clothing companies). I tried putting it in my backpack, but then I did not have the time and stressed about running late. So I bought a watch. This was the turing point in my "journey" (I'm getting a bit carried away here). Once I had the watch, I kept the phone in my backpack. I was still very bored on the train rides, but I wasn't stressed anymore and that felt very good.
The boredom vanished after a while. My mind found other ways to entertain itself. I stated eavesdropping on other conversations, imagining how this conversation came about. I learned to just do nothing. To simply look out of a window. I started to forget my phone in my backpack. I used to come home, lay on my bed and mindlessly browse through Instagram for hours on end. Now I would come home, lay on my bed and read or I would draw. Suddenly I had time for my hobbies again. I also learned to be alone with my thoughts and be ok with that, something I wasn't before. Silence isn't as frightening as before. I also have a new appreciation for music. It used to always surround me, now I am far more selective and if I decide to listen to music its intentional and that makes the music more meaningful for me. I stared noticing the music played in stores and cafes, I got very happy when they played a song that I liked.
But there were also some negative sides to this story. I made some sacrifices by reducing my phone time. Mainly that I wasn't as responsive to my friends as I used to be. Especially people that I would not write often with just fell through my radar. There are still some messages from the end of June that I haven't gotten back to. I used to chat during train rides, now that I don't do that anymore its quite hard to find the time to answer. I also missed a lot of calls, never used my voicemail that much before. There also were a few moments where I wished that I had headphones. It once took me 30 minutes to find a quiet place in my university to work. If I had headphones I would just pop them in and work wherever. On a similar note, I noticed just how short my attention span really is. I would concentrate on a task, hear a unfamiliar sound or voice and my concentration was completely broken. My university reading got harder and took more time than before.
In the last few days I have been back home with my family. Living with a lot of people means to make compromises, I can't just blast the music I want to listen to through the whole house. So I lend my mothers headphones, same on a long car drive we took. Crammed in on the back row of the car, I listend to music on lend headphones so that I could have a bit of personal pace.
Overall I liked this experience. I learned to distance myself from technology a bit and I think that if I would buy new headphones now, I wouldn't use them as often as before. I'm still not quite sure whether or not I want to buy new ones. As of right now I am quite happy without.
Have you ever done a digital-detox? Could you live without headphones? Let me know :)
Thanks for reading!