I like to think that I am the type of person who could be removed from media completely and not give a damn. I have had the odd weekend going camping with no electricity, and it really is so beautiful being away from your phone and laptop. Your soul feels refreshed and clearer. In that context, I have had no issues with the inability to access media. However, alone in the middle of Sweden, it was quite the opposite experience.
In June 2014, I left on my exchange adventure to Karlstad, Sweden. I had the most beautiful Scandinavian host family pick me up from the train station to take me to the University accommodation. I arrived three weeks before the session was due to start, as my plan was to ditch my luggage and head off on a quick backpacking trip. The host family left me to unpack and as soon as they left I checked for WIFI to let my family back home in AUS know that I had arrived safely.
My iPhone had no WIFI connection, either did my laptop. This feeling combined with the thought that I had finally arrived, unsettled me and I began to cry. I unzipped my suitcase, threw out all the clothes searching for the Ethernet cable. I then searched the lower walls for an Ethernet plug-in point. I couldn’t see anything through my blurred, teary vision. I have never had a panic attack before, especially over something so trivial, however the idea that I could not connect at that moment to my family on the other side of the globe freaked the crap out of me! It is worth pointing out that it was midnight Australia time, nonetheless the panic was overwhelming.
When I calmed myself down, I shifted my bed to a different wall, and to my relief I found the beautiful plug-in point. Five minutes later I was connected to Facetime, Facebook, Instagram, Skype and my emails. I had the world at my fingertips once again and a huge sense of relief came over me.
When I returned from my backpacking adventure, began University study and met the most incredible group of International and Swede friends, it was difficult for me to find a moment to connect to friends and family in AUS. My panic attack on arrival day over connectedness to media felt all to trivial, however it was an important moment for me. It made me realise that we really do rely on media unconsciously as a means to connect to the world and loved ones and when this access is removed from you, it can feel unsettling. Embarrassingly, it can even be panic attack material.