With Christmas exams fast approaching, Amy Bracken decides to see if a day spent away from electricity could help her concentrate on the books…

When I was asked if I’d be up to the task of refraining from all forms of electronic technology for a day, I wasted no time in accepting. I mean, how hard could it be? With the exam period coming up, the idea of a day without constant visits to Facebook and countless pointless text messages seemed a practical and sensible idea. Challenge accepted.

So, having carefully taken the time to inform my family and friends that I would not be availing of the usage of my mobile phone or laptop for a day, I felt pretty proud of myself when I set my alarm on an old clock instead of my phone. Cue catch number one. I forget that my old alarm clock possesses no shape or form of a snooze button, and woke up at 9:20am for a 9am lecture. Smooth.

01Stumbling sleepily into the kitchen, my confidence about my antique challenge immediately shatters: I realise that I will have to resort to a meagre breakfast of dry bread, being banned from popping it into the toaster for even a second. Add to this the fact that for the first time in years I couldn’t have a cup of tea with my breakfast, and you can gather a clear picture of my pain.

Back upstairs. Get dressed. Reflexively reach for hair straightening irons. Pause. Remember. It’s going to be a long day.

Aside from my voluntary Amish lifestyle, my day is further complicated by the presence of an eminently failable French aural exam. So, in standard last-minute cramming for my exam, I instinctively reach for the laptop to do some practise exercises on Moodle… and then I remember.

I decide to resort to notes and simply hope for the best. Giving up after a while, getting nowhere without my electronic props, I decide to pop into college early (!) and drop some books back to the library. Realising I cannot actually enter the library – using the swipe entry system would involve using electronics – I deposit them into the Book Return Box at the admissions desk. The fines will have to build up for another day.

I arrive outside the classroom ten minutes early, so I reach for my MP3 player… and then, again, I remember. Cue temptation to give up. Cue anger at self-imposed challenge. Gah.

In hindsight, I would probably have given up on my challenge there and then, had I cottoned onto the obvious fact that my task would be immediately failed come 6pm when I had my exam. Midway through class, I reach for my phone to text a friend and inform her of the sheer frustration of my irritating (albeit slightly hilarious) day. Then I realise that said phone is switched off in a drawer at home. This day just keeps getting worse and worse.

Following my solitary class of the day (because, as mentioned, I missed my first lecture), I head to the Arts Café for something to satisfy my grumbling belly after my meagre ‘breakfast’. I am proud to admit that I technically didn’t break any rules in this respect, availing of soup (preheated – don’t give me that look) and a roll. Just to emphasise my claim, I entered through the side doors of the Newman Building and not through the automated front doors.

Time for a pitstop at home. As I open the front door I hear the TV in the living room. I dash upstairs, knowing that if I go inside, I’ll be lured to look at it.

My room is dark, thanks to horrendous black clouds infesting the sky, but alas, I can’t turn on a light. Thus a further attempt to study fails. At least – for once – I have a good reason to procrastinate.

Once again I make for UCD, and arrive promptly at 5:40pm for my 6pm test. (For the record, I have a clockwork watch and not a digital one, so that’s allowed, right?!)

Honestly speaking, I suppose my pledge not to use electronic technology for a day was broken during my aural exam. But for the purpose of investigation, I have decided to ignore it. It was, after all, entirely out of my control.

Exam over, and with a satisfied grin on my face, I head to the bus terminus, with plans to pop over to my aunt’s house for a pre-arranged drink. I fumble in my bag for change, realising angrily that I cannot use the prepaid bus ticket I bought this morning for that purpose – the validation machine is, after all, a form of electronic technology. It was only when I had boarded and paid that I realised the bus had electric lights, but I was cold and tired and didn’t fancy walking to Glasnevin – and, come to think of it, I couldn’t avoid the street lights when I changed buses in the city.

Of course, I had totally forgotten that my aunt’s house is similar to Fort Knox. Discovering the gate to her house is locked, I have to shout her name over and over to try and attract attention, because of course I cannot phone her. My phone was still in the drawer in my bedroom, where I’d left it, knowing that if I had carried it with me it would be too difficult to resist temptation. Just as I am about to buckle and ask a passer-by to allow me borrow their mobile, I am gratefully admitted to the house, my face a prim shade of scarlet from sheer frustration.

A cup of tea and a quick stroll to the pub later, and I have started to calm down. Cue the damning, horrible realisation that I cannot watch the France-Ireland World Cup playoff. Cue immediate destruction of pledge. In fairness, with four or five screens in the pub showing the match, I could hardly avoid it, could I? Honestly said, I wish I hadn’t bothered. I still haven’t shaken off the devastation.

Back to my almost-over analogue day, as I explain my newly-failed challenge to my aunt and cousin, and persuade them that we don’t need lights or background music to have a chat and catch-up. They agree, and before we know it, it’s 4.30am and my day is technically over.

I gladly ignore the fact that the day shouldn’t end until I go to bed, using my aunt’s phone to call a taxi. When I eventually get home, I take great pleasure in boiling the kettle for a cup of tea and going on Facebook to check how many anti-Thierry Henry groups have been created in the six hours since the match ended. I also set my alarm – on my phone this time.

Overall, not the most successful, rigid (it was very easily broken!) nor, admittedly, the most enjoyable challenge. However, it struck me that most of the items we use today – laptops, mobile phones, MP3 players, and so on – had barely been heard of twenty years ago, so why do we find it so difficult to survive a couple of hours without them now? Either way, one thing is clear – it is virtually impossible for the modern Irish student to live without technology, if even for a day.

Boil the kettle.