Sunday, October 18, 2009
Social Experiment: 31 Hours without a Cellphone
As an experiment to test the social capital of some of my peers I used my roommate, Alexander Johnson, as a test subject to see how one is affected by 31 hours without a cell phone or facebook. With over 1,100 "friends" on facebook and an average of 3,000 text messages sent each month, Alexander is a prime example of modern-day youths that are becoming increasingly disconnected from the world around them caused by ever greater amounts of technology in our lives.
Prior to this experiment, Alex had a serious disconnect from the real world that he subsequently replaced with the virtual world of the internet. Whenever guests would come to the room, Alex would either ignore them or divide his attention between those around him and those in the shallow world of online interaction. In short, Alex had little to no social capital.
Around 4:00 PM Thursday afternoon, while Alex was taking one of his many daytime naps, I got onto his computer and changed his facebook password. Then, I took his cell phone and hid it in the room of a friend. 15 minutes later he awakes to discover that his phone is gone and he cannot access his facebook.
Hour 1: Alex repeatedly tries entering his password into the computer (30 min.). As he continues his efforts to access his account his frustration mounts, believing that he is simply mistyping his password.
Hour 2: Alex's frustration grows to point of a gentle sob (he won't admit to it, but I know). He scours the room looking his cell phone, assuming he misplaced. After a half an hour of searching, Alex then concludes that I was in some way involved with the situation. He questions me until I eventually reveal the experiment and he begrudgingly agrees to partake.
Hours 3-6: Alex repeatedly begs me to end the experiment, but I decline until his anger and frustration give way to eventual acceptance.
Hour 7: He actually converses with his "live" friends in the room and as a result he enjoys the company of his peers.
Hour 20: Alex reads a book (something I have never seen him do).
Hour 31: The experiment ends and Alex is relieved to have his technology back.
Despite the fact that he instantly reverted to his old anti-social habits, I'd like to think that he learned something from the trial he endured. Although technology like the internet and cell phones can keep us connected to those we care about no matter their location, these blessings can also undermine the tangible everyday relationships that we could be nurturing with those around us.