My friends marvelled at my optimism and improved mood sans screen time, prompting suggestions that I make the move to tech-free living a permanent oneViktoria Hunter with permission for Varsity

One of my favourite weekends of Easter term so far (admittedly not a time full of highlights) has been the 48 hours I spent without a phone. Before this fateful weekend, giving up technology hadn’t been an alien concept to me – I’d seen the trends of ditching touch screens for flip phones on a night out, and baulked at the suggestion of their supposed benefits for living in the moment. However, my time spent lacking a phone was not a premeditated decision, alas, but a port-fuelled mistake.

Picture the scene: following some of the best formal dinner food (and conversation) of the year at my college’s History Society dinner, the ‘brief’ speeches had begun to drag on. The second glass of tawny port was admittedly not relished with the respect its ten-year vintage warranted, but downed before I made my excuses, leaving for the closest thing to decent nightlife exam term seemed to be providing – the nearest college bop.

“I was peering into the Cam’s murky waters, phone in hand, when disaster struck. Bang, splash, gone. Phone no longer in hand”

Before long, a brief respite in the smoking area was called for. I leant over the barrier, peering into the Cam’s murky waters, phone in hand. Suddenly, disaster struck: phone no longer in hand. Bang, splash, gone. It all happened in slow motion. My third-hand iPhone X and hard-won driver’s licence were swept away by the river’s unforgiving current. The picture of my 17 year old face stared back at me with lifeless eyes, seeming to question what kind of fortified wine-fuelled reprobate university life had turned me into. I peeled my eyes away and faced my friends. Together we seemed to hold an impromptu minute’s silence for my loss. What could be done? I took another drag, then headed back inside to the tune of ABBA’s now sardonically appropriate ‘Waterloo’.

The morning after, I wasn’t awoken by the standard piercing iPhone alarm, nor even my neighbour’s promised knock on the door, but a punter’s enticing calls to passers-by below my window. My initial feeling was one of slight disorientation – I didn’t know the time, nor what my friends were up to, or the latest news, or all the other more useless information a glance at a screen could have offered me. Instead of opening up Instagram, I headed to sit near the river and – shock horror – read a book. My day only improved with a friend’s suggestion that we cycle to Grantchester meadows. Revision tossed aside, I spent an afternoon enjoying all the sights, sounds, and scents nature had to offer, reverting to my primary school style instincts of picking grass absent-mindedly.

“I spent an afternoon enjoying all the sights, sounds, and scents nature had to offer”

As the weekend wore on, my longing for technology turned into disdain. The automatic reaction to a BeReal notification, motivating everyone to maintain awkward smiles for a second longer than natural, seemed almost dystopian. My friends marvelled at my optimism and improved mood sans screen time, prompting suggestions that I make the move to tech-free living a permanent one. Plans for a picnic celebrating a friend’s birthday on the backs were communicated to me via Outlook, my one remnant of the methods of modern communication.

A new week commenced, and I began to reckon with the idea of forking out for a new phone. Finding the nearest shop that would suit my budget only with the criteria of their reluctance to spell phone with a ‘ph’, I submitted to the allure of a shiny new-ish iPhone. My haggling skills were employed with the same tactics, though perhaps more success, than my flirting skills: that lethal combination of northern charm and inherited-from-my-Irish-side gift of the gab secured me a discount of over 20%. Coming from a long line of horse dealers, perhaps it’s in the genes.


Mountain View

Martha’s Mindful Madness: Shostakovich, slosh-ta-soap-ich, and balcony adventures

Clutching my newly acquired second-hand iPhone 11, I sauntered through town and back to college, dodging tourists with their phones projected to King’s College chapel like extensions of their limbs. I guess I’m one of them now. Joyce painted mistakes as ‘portals of discovery’, and perhaps after my weekend spent enjoying all Cambridge had to offer, I’d agree. There were admittedly some downsides, such as my inability to consult help when running into difficulties with my bike, and no Sidgwick site knight (or dame?) in shining armour to come to my rescue, Saltburn style. However, I encourage you all to free yourselves from the fetters of your phones for a while. Just perhaps don’t drop them in the Cam – it can’t be good for the ducks after all.