72 Hours Without Any Music: What I Learned
Ever since the advent of the smart phone, social media platforms have grown rapidly to accommodate that tool. They have grasped and commoditized all of our valuable attention. Oftentimes, we stare down, glued to our screens, forgoing reality altogether. We swipe up and down, moving from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat to Twitter when instead, we could be engaging in sincere conversations or pursuing meaningful hobbies.
In fact, just yesterday, I used my phone for a collective seven and a half hours, well above the average usage of five hours a day. I unlocked it well over 100 times throughout the day (I used an app called QualityTime that tracked my smartphone behaviors).
Such statistics are telling of how much we rely on external things. We’re taking life for granted. To actualize the true implications that smartphones have on us, I positioned myself as a guinea pig. I was to endure 72 hours, an entire three days, without any music.
Less than two decade ago, we only had CDs to listen from, and before cassette tapes. Of course, lugging around a CD or cassette player would be highly convenient. In a way, digital technology has not really made our lives better (for we could not have known life would be better with iPhones and iPods) much as it has made it more convenient. I plan to enter the primitive world of inconvenience, and see how much I have become dependent on my phone for the last several years.
The experiment commenced at 8:30 AM. That morning, to wake up feeling refreshed, I had blasted some Hans Zimmer epic soundtracks while brushing my teeth, making my bed, and getting ready for the day.
It was only at school when I finally went on a complete purge from any music.
Of course, I soon realized that it was impossible to play music. If I was in the general vicinity, it was unavoidable but for me to hear it. However, such occurrences were sporadic and infrequent. I felt that was okay. It usually wasn’t music I would deliberately listen to anyway.
To make matters worse, I had develop of having my earphones always in my right pocket, so throughout the day, I was highly conscious of the uneven weight by my side.
But other than that, I did not have much thought about it, and went through the day relatively unaffected. Perhaps it was the school environment that caused this; I was surrounded by friends and peers I could interact with, never feeling the need to pull out my earphones to isolate myself from the world.
It was only in the afternoon that I started feeling uncomfortable without listening to music. I was surrounded by dead silence as I worked. Thoughts of terminating the experiment emerged, but then, I remembered the whole premise of setting it to three days was so it’s deliberately uncomfortable but not too prolonged.
When dinner arrived, I was so glad to talk to my family.
Any discomfort I felt yesterday paled in comparison to the morning of the second day.
When the alarm sounded, I crawled out of bed to silence my alarm on the other side of the room. But without any music, I instantly felt compelled to go back to sleep. I was unaccustomed to the silence.
To circumvent this, I played some marketing podcasts to get myself mentally stimulated and awake (using an app called CastBox). Yet, although it felt strange at first, it did the job well. In fact, a few minutes in, I felt no different as if I had music playing instead.
Throughout the day, there were also random times when I felt compelled to listen to a particular song. I never gave this notion much thought before, because whenever I wanted to listen to a song, I would just play it, whether it was on YouTube or through my downloaded playlist. These were also some of the more disconcerting times when the tune plays in my mind, but I could not hear it in actuality. Interestingly, I’m reminded of the times before I got a smartphone. I never felt this sudden desire to listen to music; in fact, before then, I never particularly enjoyed music.
It’s telling how much we actually rely on external factors like music playing for our happiness and comfort.
By now, I realized that as the social creatures we are, we need to hear and interact with other human beings. I felt happiest during school and during dinner. By extension, music has substituted this natural happiness. In a way, it has made happiness artificial.
Knowing that the voice of other human beings were quintessential to our well-being, whether it was through talking or singing, I started listening to Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferriss interviews throughout the day. I found this instantly bolstered my relatively downcast mood.
By the end of the day, I pondered on the progress that I had made and wondered if my mood was reflective of my mentality going into the experiment. I somewhat convinced myself that I would be uncomfortable enduring through this uneventful 72 hours, and sure enough it was. Bruce Lee’s renowned quote, “As you think, so shall you become” has certainly reared its ugly face here.
I needed to change my mentality and enjoy life more as it is. I needed to appreciate the subtler things in life, the leaf falling to the ground, the slight breeze in the air, the birds chirping in the distance…
I listened to podcasts in the morning again. I really thought I could integrate this into my morning routine. Not only am I waking myself up from comprehending the content, but I am learning in those short minutes everyday. Two birds knocked out with one stone.
Throughout the day, I felt the anxious rush, knowing that it was the last day of the experiment. I was excited for when the experiment ended, of course, but I was equally enjoying life as it was. I wondered what it would have been like, had I been more audacious and set the experiment to be a week or even a month long.
Another fascinating note were the short, albeit repetitive intro sounds to my podcasts and interviews. Although not really music, it was still lovely to hear a slight melody, even if it was for less than ten seconds.
I see other people around school with earphones constantly plugged in and wonder what would happen if they tried a similar experiment. I also wondered if it would have been immensely harder if this was occurred over the course of the weekend, when I didn’t have so many friends, peers, and teachers to talk to.
Although I usually write with some music playing in the background, I did find that I was able to accomplish the same feat without it. I noticed no discernible increase or decrease in productivity however. The task felt more rote, more monotonous, and less fun for sure, however.
Had I started before 8:30 AM three days ago, and this experiment would have have been done! But alas, I typically wake at 5 AM. So I went through my modified morning routine again for the third time.
Interestingly, I noticed my little experiment had finally ended at around 10:30 AM, two hours after the official finish line. I had become so used to life without music that I completely forgot it ended. But of course, the moment I realized, I whipped out my headphones…
Would I do this exact experiment again? Probably not. It did enlighten me as to how much we rely on external factors that we may not even be wholly conscious of though. And that’s such a notable takeaway. We rush into life, pretending to be busy all the time, when instead, we should just take a step back, and enjoy it at times.
Perhaps I’ll try 72 hours without any digitalized audio at all. That includes alarms, podcasts, interviews, and anything else I employed to cope. And then, maybe I’ll try 72 hours without my phone at all.
But for now, I’m plugging in my headphones. 🙂
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