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>Feeling cut off

By NAOMI SOMAN

The average teenager spends about 7.4 hours sleeping each night but spends almost the same amount of time using a cellphone, iPod, TV and computer.

Today's society revolves around technology. Anyone can use a cellphone to tell the time, make a call, send a text, listen to music or surf the Internet.

"I feel every teenager has their phone in their hands at all times," said Sharon Vadapalli, a senior at Williamsville North High School.

According to a national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day devoted to entertainment media, but because so many teens have figured out how to multitask, the total time is about 11 hours. So, I attempted the impossible. I turned off my cellphone, iPod, TV and computer for one weekend.

I could tell you that not using technology opened my eyes to a world of possibilities but that would be a lie. As soon as the dismissal bell rang Friday afternoon, a lump formed in my stomach because, as many adults fail to realize, computers and cellphones are not just toys teenagers carry around. They are essential parts of our daily lives.

Friday afternoon, gymnastics practice ended early. Normally I would have flipped open my phone and called my mom to pick me up, but this time I just had to wait an extra half-hour.

On Saturday night, I usually turn on the TV and watch reruns of "How I Met Your Mother" or whatever else happens to be on. Then I check if anybody "liked" my status or commented on my photos on Facebook. Instead of wasting a few hours on Facebook, I picked up a book and got ahead on my homework.

Sunday is homework day when I sit down at my desk with my agenda open to the weekend's checklist. AP Literature: Write a two-page essay about myself. At one point in time, teachers specified whether they wanted a typed or written essay. No one does this anymore. Now teachers assume every student has access to a computer and can easily pound out an essay. The thought of writing out a two-page essay was unfathomable. If I made a mistake, I'd have to go back and erase it instead of just deleting it and typing something new. What if I wanted to move paragraphs around? Instead, I decided just to skip it and wake up early Monday morning to finish. Writing almost seems old-fashioned. No one writes anything anymore.

AP Calculus: Finish an old quiz. When I got stuck on No. 4 though, I couldn't text my friends to see if anyone understood the problem and could help me. I had to leave the problem until the next day when I asked my friend in person whether she got the right answer. OK, yes, this may sound trivial; I waited an extra day to find out one answer on my homework, but when I'm used to finding out answers within a few minutes, waiting a day feels like eternity.

Without technology, I felt like I was walking in a bubble and I was missing out on everything going on around me.

When asked about this, Jessica Asirwatham, a senior at Williamsville North, said, "You feel disconnected. You're not in touch with people. You feel like things are going on and you're uninformed."

Some people believe technology is a time-waster. Teenagers tend to sit behind a computer screen instead of taking a walk or playing basketball in the front yard. But, let's face it, technology is a part of life that's not going away any time soon.

"I think we've gotten so accustomed to having it there, that we don't know what it's like to not have it there. It's almost unnatural to not have it be there," said Rhea Puri, a senior at Williamsville North.

Many people believe teenagers use cellphones and Facebook to procrastinate (thus getting lower grades), but if those same people are reading this article, they should know I typed it on my computer with the help of both my cellphone and Facebook. I'll admit, without Facebook or texting or TV to distract me, I could concentrate more easily on my homework, but I will also testify that technology connects us. Without my cellphone and computer, I felt cut off from the rest of the world.

Naomi Soman is a senior at Williamsville North High School.

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>Unplugged

BY RACHEL ZIARNOWSKI

Cutting the cord to my techno world was harder than I thought. It was difficult to withhold my desire to go on Facebook or text my friends. I thought I would miss so much, but in reality, I hadn't missed much at all.

After pulling the plug on my electronics, I was able to take a step back and watch our busy world from a different perspective. My first experience with electronically distracted people came Friday morning on the school bus. I did not use my iPod as I normally do, and I realized how easily we can become detached from those around us. Once in a while, I peered from behind my seat to see teens staring out the windows as they listened to their music or texted on their phones. No one really cared to talk to anyone or even just say a simple, "Good morning." It is odd to think that I act similarly when I have my electronics.

Saturday morning brought a time for family and homework, which I was able to finish earlier than usual. When I was on my break at my job at Tim Hortons later that day, I found myself staring at the wall for lack of anything better to do. I recognized my need for constant activity and social interaction.

I snuck a couple of glances at the TV on Sunday while my mother was watching the Bills' game, and I had to fight off many impulses to text my friends that day.

On the positive side, my technology-free weekend provided an opportunity to do things that I did not have time to do before. I had time to play my guitar, which had been neglected in a corner of my room. My backpack as well as my room were ridiculously organized as a result of my boredom and restlessness.

In addition to the entertainment aspect of electronics, I learned the practicality of using them, too. I was constantly worried about missing a call from my boss calling me in for another shift. It was frustrating to write out all of my homework instead of typing it -- although my homework did get done faster because there were no Facebook breaks. I had no way to wish my friend a happy birthday over the weekend without Facebook or texting. I then thought, isn't it silly that we need a Facebook post to know that our friends care about us?

Watching my peers go through life while being lost in their own world made me feel bad for the teens who don't have cellphones or mp3 players. Yet as I looked around, the teens who weren't completely engulfed in technology appeared to be happier than the teens who sat staring at their screens. Though it was frustrating to go through technological withdrawal, I enjoyed my increased productivity. Now, I'm determined to more prudently use technology as well as cherish the time that I spend face-to-face with people.

Rachel Ziarnowski is a junior at Holy Angels Academy.

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>'I was so bored'

By ED SLOWINSKI

Too many teenagers experience the same weekend, over and over.

The typical weekend involves coming home, relaxing, watching television or playing a favorite video game while texting friends or going on the computer to check Facebook.

To say that I am one of those teenagers is certainly an understatement. I am an experienced multitasker who can play Madden, text and check out Facebook while I'm doing my homework.

However, I spent a recent weekend, from Friday night until Monday morning, without using any electronics. It was an experiment to experience the "good old days" when students came home from school, did their homework and then retired to their bedroom with a good book.

Friday night was my last regular season football game, so I had to endure the 35-minute ride from Riverside High School to Orchard Park High School without music or a cellphone. After the game I had to find my mom in the crowded parking lot without the benefit of a phone to call her and ask for her location. I had to guess where she would be based on the guesses of other parents I stumbled upon.

Saturday morning I woke several times, but knowing I would be getting up to an electronic-free environment, I stayed in bed and slept until noon.

When I finally got up, I began getting my clothes ready for my girlfriend's homecoming dance later in Eden. I attempted to iron my clothes but soon realized I didn't know what I was doing and decided to wait until my mom returned from work to do it for me.

I was so bored. I made an ice cream sundae and then took a nap until 3 p.m. when my mom returned from work. While Mom ironed my clothes, I went to pick up my sister from her friend's house. When I got there, I realized I couldn't call or text her to tell her to come out. Instead, I had to find a parking spot, get out of the car, go up the stairs and bang on the door. And I was wearing my pajamas!

When we returned home, we asked if we could order a pizza for dinner. My mother agreed if I called and ordered the pizza. So I had to use the phone book that had gone untouched in our front hall.

After dinner we began our ride to Eden. Without my iPod I had to endure 45 minutes of disco night on WJYE and the corny jokes of Lance Diamond. But probably worst of all, was listening to my mother's singing as she relived her youth BC (before children).

Thankfully when we arrived in Eden, my girlfriend was waiting and I was able to escape "Saturday Night Fever."

The homecoming dance and breakfast at Denny's helped wile away the hours. But when we returned to my girlfriend's house, we couldn't watch television so there was nothing to do.

On Sunday, we spent the day picking and carving pumpkins. I didn't miss my iPod or phone because I was with my girlfriend.

But my fun came to a halt when I had to drive back to Buffalo without my music or phone to keep me entertained.

Monday morning I woke with a sense of accomplishment that I survived the weekend without the benefit of 21st century electronics. Don't get me wrong, I was glad it was over, anxious to get back to living in my world. But now I understand why my mother gets impatient when we complain of being bored.

And, unbelievably, despite sleeping most of the weekend away, I was still exhausted for school. Go figure.

Ed Slowinski is a senior at City Honors.

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>Taking the challenge

By MARIA PATNELLA

When I first saw the email that I had to go a week without electronics, I thought I couldn't do it. It seemed like a cool thing to try, but I thought for me it would be impossible. I took the challenge, and as hard as it was, it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

On Friday, it was my brother's birthday so to distract myself from watching TV or listening to music I cleaned the house, wrapped his gifts and celebrated with him when he got home. At night, while he was having his birthday party, I was tempted to sit down and watch the Sabres game on TV, but I knew I also had plenty of homework to get started on, from English essays to government articles.

Waking up the next day and having breakfast in silence on Saturday, though, was very different. Before I start getting ready for the day, I'll sit down, eat breakfast, catch up on some TV, and then continue on with my day. Not only that, I could not even check my emails or check up on the latest news on Facebook. Since my cellphone was also off limits, I couldn't even talk to my friends. To make matters even worse, since Saturday was also a rainy and windy day, I could not even go outside. Instead, I stayed inside and finished most of my homework. I normally would type my government article, but I actually handwrote it. I even wrote out a first draft for my English essay. For people like me who usually type assignments on Microsoft Word, it was definitely different handwriting it.

At night, my friends and I went to the Haunted Catacombs in Cheektowaga, so I got to see my friends and talk to them about their weekend since I could not text them. Even though I could not use electronics, my Saturday was very fun and it went by pretty quickly.

On Sunday, it was the same lonely morning as the day before. I worked on future assignments and got ahead on some things, since I knew I would be busy during the week. I didn't want to have the same lonely day as Friday, so I decided to make a change. I had a couple of questions on my English homework, and I couldn't text or Facebook chat with my friends about them, so I decided to talk to them the "old-fashioned" way -- by using my home phone. I called up one of my friends and we ended up going through most of the assignment together. It was nice to hear from a friend that I had not been able to talk to for the last couple of days, and to get the assignment done. To occupy the rest of day I went to jazz rehearsal at school and even spent some time doing a little physical activity. Exercising without my iPod, though, is something that I usually cannot live without. I am always sitting and listening to my iPod almost every minute when I am home. When I got tired of exercising in silence, I eventually turned to my saxophone. I practiced some music and got ahead on some stuff for band, which I never usually have time to do over the weekend.

Many people would think it would be horrible to go a weekend without electronics. I admit, it was lonely and at times it seemed as if I had lost touch with the world. But, on the other hand, it gives you time to yourself and time to do things that you normally don't get to do. You don't realize how much time you spend texting and on the computer until you go a day without it. Without electronics, all this time opens up and you become more productive.

When Monday morning finally came, I realized the weekend went faster than I had expected, and when I looked back I knew that I had gotten a lot done. Of course it was weird to turn on my phone and see all the text messages I had missed out on, but then again, I really could have lived without them. Of course, the world was more silent and I had to wait a couple more days to find out what skits they did on "Saturday Night Live" and what happened on some of my favorite TV shows, but I realized I could wait to find out. I realized we don't really need all that we think we do. I encourage others to try giving up electronics for a weekend, because although you may not know what to do with yourselves for the first couple of hours, you will find something to do. My weekend was very productive, and I even got to see my friends and catch up with them, without using my cellphone or social media sites. As much as people think that I was crazy for doing this, it was worth it.

Maria Patnella is a senior at Mount St. Mary Academy.