Unplugged

Recently, in the news, there was a story about a 24-year-old who gave up using a computer and a cell phone for 90 days. We put two Chicago Tonight staffers to the test to see if they could go "unplugged" -- for just one weekend!

Associate Producer Christine Hurley and Callaway Fellow Michael Lipkin took on the challenge (reluctantly, I might add!) beginning on Friday at midnight. We asked them to write about their experiences and take photos to document their activities. See how they fared through the challenge in their blog entries below!

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Michael Lipkin

After hearing about Jake Reilly’s swearing off social media, cell phones, and e-mail for three months, I admit I was unimpressed. Maybe it would be harder to arrange a date or get directions, but I was so confident I could replicate his experiment that I challenged Christine Hurley to see who could make it through the weekend longer. (Note: No way were either of us going to go through the work week without e-mail. Nonstarter.) 

And then I got sick, some sort of 48-hour bug that put me out of commission for most of the weekend. (A convenient illness, according to Christine.) With sporadic consciousness and unlimited access to TV—one of Reilly’s tech exceptions that immediately jumped out at me—I admit I barely noticed the lack of cell service or Facebook updates, especially with a stack of unread books by my bedside waiting to be read.

I did, however, feel a little out of touch. I slept through the Nevada primaries and without cable TV or a quick peek at The New York Times homepage, Mitt Romney’s victory just floated by. Also, without Twitter, how could I gauge the appropriate reaction to Madonna’s halftime show? For the record, I’m a sucker for ‘80s pop and loved the crazy swingliner. By Sunday night, I was ready to get out of bed and plugged back in.

Christine Hurley

Things I couldn’t do without the internet: 

1. Check if Dennis Quaid and Randy Quaid are related—if so, how?
2. Check what time Target opens.
3. Check my bank account balance.
4. Check movie times.
5. Listen to Bon Iver (the band on Saturday Night Live.)
6. Order a dress.
7. Check the weather.
8. Watch Netflix.
9. Check my gossip sites.
10. Check Facebook.
11. Skype.
12. Look for a new pair of boots.
13. Find a restaurant for Chicago’s Restaurant Week.
14. Find the number for my dog’s groomer.
15. Check why Chicago hot dog buns have poppy seeds.
16. Check the Chicago Tonight website to see if any questions were posted for the Alzheimer’s segment I’m producing on Monday.

As you can see, my weekend was quite unfulfilled without the internet. I’m aware that most of these tasks could have been done sans internet, but the effort was greater than my desire to find out the information. I could live without Facebook, Twitter and the like, but the internet is my go-to-source for all of my random questions…see above.

Also, I guess I was one of the only people in Chicago who didn’t know Dennis and Randy were brothers. So yes, I could have driven to my bank and checked the ATM, but I didn’t care enough to know my exact balance. Sure, I could have paid 411 to look up the numbers for Target and the groomer—but who wants to pay 75 cents for a phone number? It’s free online! 

What is arguably worse than not having the internet all weekend? Not having my cell phone, too. I like waking up to the warm glow of my BlackBerry’s LED light. Maybe this challenge would have been easier if I lived in the city…nearer to my friends. But I don’t. I live in the burbs. So how am I supposed to stay in contact? Pay phones? Sure, but good luck finding one. Landline? OK, but who keeps a record of phone numbers outside of their cell?

The original subject of the “unplugged” project that spurred this Chicago Tonight challenge says he was liberated by his technological leave. However, I found myself filling my time with mundane tasks. I worked my second job at a local children’s museum, did laundry -- a lot of laundry, washed my makeup brushes and played with my adorable dog.

My "unplugged” experience ended a bit early. Michael and I were supposed to conclude this social experiment on Monday at 10:00 am. However, on Sunday night, I realized I needed my cell phone’s alarm to wake me up for work. When I turned it on, I saw I had missed three text messages…oh, well.

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