Video feature: Otherwise engaged - my life without a mobile, Twitter, Facebook and more

Mobile phones, Facebook, Hotmail, Twitter and MySpace. We have become increasingly reliant on new age communcation. So what would life be like without access to any of them? Sara McCorquodale entered the technological black hole for five days to find out.

Remember when the internet was accessed via dial-up connection, texts cost 10p to send and a Hotmail account was cutting edge in technological possession?

Remember when calling someone from a phone, that wasn’t attached to the wall, seemed to be the ultimate statement of sophistication?

Ah, the good old days.

In 2011, the prospect of life without wi-fi is horrifyingly clunky and landlines are the patronised elderly relatives of the iPhone and Blackberry.

We text, tweet and Facebook.

We send e-mails, e-cards and regard Royal Mail with suspicion.

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In January, consumer analysts Mintel revealed 60 per cent of Brits call, text, browse the internet, take pictures and e-mail using their mobile phones everyday.

We are so addicted to these devices, 61 per cent of us would realise if our phones went missing within the hour, research by YouGov found.

And I am part of this statistic. When it comes to modern methods of communication, I am addicted.

So, when I was asked to give up my mobile phone, Twitter, Facebook and personal e-mail account for five days in the name of journalism, I was slightly trepidatious.

How would I get in touch with people? How would they get in touch with me? Would friends think I’d become a recluse if I wasn’t “liking” statuses on Facebook and retweeting witty comments on Twitter?

I handed over my Blackberry Torch to my assistant news editor and entered the abyss...


In many ways, being without Facebook, Twitter, a mobile phone and an e-mail account suits me down to the ground.

Replying to texts and e-mails often occupies bottom of the priority list and I’m not above ignoring calls if I’m too sleepy to chat.

In short, I think a few days out of touch will be quite pleasant.

A holiday from technology, a mini-break in the Stone Age.

The problem with always being contactable is I spend a lot of time being drawn into the fruitless dramas of family and friends.

For example, at present, my ex-flatmate is dating a Russian millionaire who carries a gun. We e-mail daily about whether or not this is a dumpable offence.

Another friend, who is formidable in her field, phones almost everyday in tears over the man she has been with for two years. He still won’t allow her to refer to him as ‘boyfriend’.

I think without these distractions I could most definitely be a more productive girlfriend, employee and person in general.

Walking home from work phoneless, I feel liberated and clear-headed. I know this is a challenge, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one.


Today did not start well. I use my phone as an alarm and while it is confiscated I am sharing my boyfriend’s. Which I slept through.

Waking up at 8.36am before a 9am start is nothing but unpleasant and I can’t call the office to let them know I am still in my pyjamas 20 minutes before shift kick-off.

So I get ready in a rush and arrive at the office looking shambolic.

I don’t have coffee or breakfast and feel incredibly irritable. I blame my irrational anger at the person sitting behind me who has my ringtone on hunger and tiredness.

His phone goes off every five minutes and I have thoughts of throwing it out the window.

Or stealing it and running off to call my mum and tell her about this rubbish morning.

Instead, I swallow my irritation and console myself with the thought that tonight my boyfriend is taking me out for prosecco and tapas.

This gets me through the day and by 5pm I stroll home in brighter spirits, mentally planning what I’ll wear for this evening’s excursion.

When I get to my flat, the first thing I see is a large note pinned to the wall.

Said boyfriend – an engineer at Ipswich Hospital – has written: “Been called into work – don’t know when I’ll get home. Sorry love, don’t think tonight’s going to happen.”


Although it fills me with dread, I decide today is the day I go in search of a phone box and call my mum.

Payphones remind me of post-student union drunken phone calls to boyfriends when I was at university. Oh, the angst of never having enough spare change.

However, if I don’t make this phone call, the consequences will be great.

As my mum lives in Scotland, she reassures herself I am alive and well with regular phone calls. If I don’t pick up, she tries again and again and again.

I once forgot to bring my mobile on a weekend away and returned to 47 missed calls and three voicemails.

I venture out to the phone box at the end of my street, Portman Road. Ipswich Town are playing a home game and as a result the noise from the stadium is intrusive to say the least.

In addition, there is a puddle of vomit obstructing my entry to the phonebox.

I hop over the what appears to have been a pie, chips and gravy lunch grasping a fistful of change and put it in the slot.

I start to dial my mum’s number, but after two seconds, the line goes dead and sounds a monotone.

I try two more times, but have no joy. Computer says no.

Not only does the phone box not allow calls, it steals money too.

I leave the phone box, �2 lighter. On my way to find another payphone, my boyfriend’s mobile rings. It is my mother and she’s not happy.


The trouble with not having any modern way of communicating is you have to resort to old-fashioned methods and they are incredibly slow in comparison.

I have had to send a friend a letter to cancel our pre-arranged dinner later this week and I’m pretty sure by the time it gets there she’ll be so annoyed with my lack of contact she won’t want to see me anyway.

And to be honest, I’m not sure I trust it will make it from Ipswich to her London letterbox at all.

Worse than this is the number of e-mails, Facebook messages, calls, texts and tweets I am sure to be missing.

I visualise them all piling up and feel acutely anxious every time I think about how long it will take me to respond to the backlog.

One issue in particular is really making me lose sleep.

Later this year, I am my best friend’s bridesmaid and in a couple of days there is a bridesmaids’ pow-wow in Edinburgh.

I know the rest of the wedding party will be texting, e-mailing and dividing up duties ahead of this meeting. Everyone except me.

What if, in my absence, they decide on yellow bridesmaids’ dresses?

I accept I may have to spend the happiest day of my best friend’s life looking like a jaundiced canary and tearfully concede I’ll have to bow out of official wedding party pictures.


The final day, at last. I feel fed up and isolated. Having moved from London to Ipswich three months ago, I rely on my mobile phone and social networking sites a lot, I have realised.

Without them, I’m very aware of how much I miss my friends and family. I miss the gossip, I miss the drama, I even miss self-conscious Facebook status updates.

Although I started the challenge with a gung-ho approach, I am finishing it feeling downbeat.

I go to work, banterless and filled with self-pity. My fellow bridesmaids probably hate me. My mum is annoyed at me for taking on such a challenge. I really miss my friends.

In the office, the guy sitting behind me continues to get text after text, call after call.

Tomorrow, I think, that will be me.


A total of 32 e-mails, 24 Facebook notifications, 21 text messages, six Twitter messages. And despite all that I have missed, no one is annoyed at me.

My fellow bridesmaids have e-mailed messages of excitement about the pow-wow. And the letter to London arrived – a much-appreciated surprise.

My friend is still debating whether or not to end her relationship with the gun-wielding Russian and I now know the locations of working phone boxes in Ipswich town centre.

I think mobile phones, social networking sites and e-mail accounts have become so addictive because many people don’t live in the same place their whole lives any more.

My best friends live in Edinburgh, Brazil, New York and London.

My family is in Glasgow and I am in Suffolk.

Without modern modes of communication, I’d spend a lot of time waiting for the postman.

But the challenge has made me realise I rely on my mobile a lot more than I realised and this is something that has to change.

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