By Chandlor Henderson

Photo taken my Alison Helzer. Cats name is Kanji.

For my Journalism 201 class “Media and Society” I was tasked with turning off all my digital media for six hours – a task that is difficult for most people, and especially difficult for media professionals. Being a media professional, I wasn’t too happy about the prospect of losing six hours of work. Most importantly, I didn’t want to miss six hours of emails. I’m not as attached to social media as I am to my Google inbox. But it turned out okay in the end.  

As an older student, I exist in a different space than most of my peers on campus. I’ve lived many happy years without a Facebook account, including two years during the Trump administration. I have no problem turning off digital media, except that the internet is now where I run my business.  

I expected the six hours to be a waste of time. After all, this is an online class. What is the point of turning off my computer and cell phone for an online class? It seemed like a juvenile experiment that wouldn’t teach people of my age anything of value. I still feel that way for the most part. 

In any case, I used my digital detox time as an opportunity to rest and hang out with my pets. I regularly blog about my pets, so I often take photos and videos. I couldn’t document our time together today due to the assignment. 

Here in Eugene, Oregon we were having an unusual storm that even knocked out power at one point. So, I just laid with my dogs and listened to the rain while reading one of my textbooks. I have three dogs: Liyah, Maggie, and Kemba. Liyah and Maggie are from the same litter, and both have skin issues, which are common in Pitbull breeds. I laid there and alternated back and forth between reading and massaging Maggie for what could have been two hours.  

We also have a cat, so at one point I put him on my belly and lounged on the couch. He’s a good cat. He pretends to hate me, but he always purrs when I pick him up. I noticed at this point, being halfway through the assignment, I was no longer annoyed by the media shutout. I was curious about the status of my email inboxes, but I stayed true to the assignment.  

Around the five-hour mark I sat in front of my fish tanks and stared into the various aquatic jungles. I noticed several baby guppies swimming around in the roots of floating plants, each fry the size of a rice grain. I also noticed small translucent shrimps grazing in that area. I’m always happy to see them.  

I fed the fish a special dinner of blood worms and daphnia. I normally would have recorded the feeding, but I resisted the urge to grab my camcorder. It was a missed posting opportunity for our Instagram page HendoFamFarm.  

Another activity I enjoyed during my detox was harassing my wife. Alison grew up as an only child, so I make up for lost time by messing with her in obnoxious immature ways. This time it was by walking around whilst flossing my teeth. I made sure to not actually flick little bits of Chicken Parmesan at her, but I certainly pretended to do so.  

I also took a nap, which was nice. Sitting around for six hours without digital media is boring. I needed to study for my Swahili class, but my notes are on Quizlet, which is a form of digital media. All my other class assignments are online, as are most of my textbooks, so I was unable to do much.  

In conclusion, I don’t feel any different after this assignment. I have a sleep alarm on my phone that silences communications and alerts at 11 p.m. every night, so I get a decent amount of reflection time daily.  

I’m mostly glad that it’s over, so that I can write this essay that you are currently reading. Once I turned my phone on, I saw a video of my nephew riding a bike for the first time. He is on the other side of the country. The funny thing is, digital media will be the vehicle that affords me to visit him, because I make my money off the internet.  

Overall, I feel good. I know my house is clean, my dogs are fed and happy, my fish tanks are well maintained, and my cat is purring. All the things I care about are well (at least that I can see.) While I couldn’t work on my blog, I did make a few lists of things I wanted to do with the website. I also had an opportunity to re-write my whiteboard notes in a more organized way.  

It’s an interesting phenomenon. The idea that as a media professional I must be “on” all the time, and without digital media what would I possibly do? Six hours without checking emails is a long time. But when I logged back on everything was okay. I didn’t have any fires to put out, and my life is just as good as it was before. Maybe actually better.  

Maybe turning off for six hours once a week is a good thing to implement? It’s hard to say. I’ll leave that to the data scientists to figure out.  

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