On 23rd April the unthinkable happened: the Wi-Fi in our student house in Leeds broke for almost two weeks! It’s every student’s worst nightmare, but I’m happy to say that we all survived and I’m here now to tell the tale.
As you can imagine, the day that we found out our Wi-Fi wasn’t going to be fixed anytime soon was a dark, dark day. If you’ve ever experienced breaking your phone, you’ll know what I mean when I say you don’t realise how heavily you depend on technology until it’s taken away from you. With two essay deadlines looming over me, I began to panic. A million thoughts began to rush through my head: how will I do my university work on time? How will I communicate with people? What will I do with my evenings now that I can’t watch Netflix in bed?
My biggest concern at the time, however, was that my friend was up from my hometown and we were severely hungover and wanted nothing more than to relax in bed watching films all day. That’s when I had my stroke of genius — ‘I’ll hotspot my laptop from my phone’, I thought. My data had just reset and I had 2GB to spare, so I wasn’t especially concerned at the time. Little did I know however, that hotspotting eats up data like there’s no tomorrow and two hours into our Peep Show marathon, disaster struck: I received a text saying I’d used up 80% of my data. Although I was annoyed, I didn’t realise the full extent of this hotspotting decision as I thought the WiFi would be back up and running in a few days.
However on day four of having no WiFi, we received a call telling from Virgin Media telling us that the WiFi was down in our whole area and probably wouldn’t be fixed for another week. That’s when the panic began to really set in — that rash decision to use up all of my 3G in one evening turned out not to be such a genius idea after all and with 10% data left I began to plan out how I was going to ration it over the upcoming week. Most of my housemates had also used up all of their 3G too and our only comfort was knowing that we were all in this together: no-one had to face this challenge alone.
That week we all ate, slept and lived in the library; it was the only place where we could actually do work and communicate with friends via the internet. Every night for about a week, we’d leave the library at about 8pm, with the knowledge that once we returned home we’d have no communication with the outside world. The worst part for me was that my boyfriend’s phone was broke, he couldn’t make or receive texts or calls and our only mode of communication was through facebook messenger, which resulted in us having to FaceTime whilst I was in the library (tragic, I know). Another drawback was not being able to listen to music at home; I have little music downloaded on my phone due to having low storage and so it was odd to fall asleep in silence rather than listening to the soothing sounds of Bon Iver. By the next day, I’d find myself craving to listen to some form of music as soon as I arrived on the uni campus and my Eduroam connection appeared.
However, despite the obvious drawbacks of having no WiFi, I think it changed us all for the better. Having no access to the internet actually gives you a certain kind of liberating feeling… instead of wasting our time in the digital world, we actually paid attention to what was happening around us. It meant I had more motivation to get things done whilst I was at uni as I didn’t have the freedom to think ‘oh I’ll just get this done at home later’. I made lists of everything I wanted to get done in the day, including checking emails and doing pieces of work, which left me with free time in the evenings (which is a rare occasion).
Also, having no WiFi meant that we actually talked to each other! Although we usually spend our evenings together in the living room, we’ll usually all have either a phone or laptop with us, and it wasn’t until we didn’t have this luxury that I realised how much we ignore each other in favour of the digital world. It make me think about how much time I actually waste just watching funny videos on facebook or endlessly scrolling through other people’s photo albums to see how much fun they are having. Our online persona is so important to us, but when you detach yourself from it you realise how it actually doesn’t matter at all in relation to reality.
Although it was certainly liberating having no WiFi for a few weeks, I don’t think we could have lived like this forever, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally up and running again. It was definitely an experience, and I think now instead of panicking when the WiFi breaks for a few hours, I’ll embrace the peace and quiet that it evokes instead.