- Able to unplug…but with caveats: Perhaps more than any other country, the students based in Argentina seemed calmer about putting media aside for a day. But they noted the challenges in doing so – and what the temptations are. “I managed to stay all day without consuming media, but I think it is difficult to achieve, even for a day,” said one student. “Society does not use, but abuse all its available media. The web is a parallel world where everything is more fun and informal, and one has an ever easier ability to access it.”
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- Cell phones stave off loneliness: Students in Argentina struggled to find ways to fill their time and struggled to resist the pull of media, in part because they discovered just how ubiquitous and essential media are in their lives. “I felt strange and uninformed, isolated from the world,” said one student. But more than anything they felt alone. Their cell phones, particularly, fostered communications among friends and family, often widely dispersed.
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- There was an upside to going without media: Despite the difficulties, some students in Argentina discovered the pleasure of unplugging – not only finding relief in not being connected all the time, but some benefits to having become more aware of their own media dependence.
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“Desperate. I ‘unplugged’ all day, but it really cost me a lot, since the use of these media are part of my daily life.
In our consumer society, people who do not use media are disconnected from the world, but on the other hand, being without media prevents them from being contaminated by so much bad news, aggressiveness and so on.”
Connected, then disconnected: Although perhaps less than their counterparts around the world, students in Argentina found it difficult to disconnect. But many still reported that they were addicted, and noted their feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration when they put away their laptops, iPods and especially their mobile phones. The common complaint? “I felt the helplessness of not communicating.”
- “I realized that out of every 24 hours, I’m connected to a machine 15 hours a day.”
- “Our minds are accustomed to the frenetic pace that we impose, so when we disconnect from all our media machines, we feel something is missing in our daily lives.”
- “Being unplugged creates a very strong sense of isolation. One does not realize how dependent we are on media (in my case, to my cell phone) until we lose touch with it all. Our minds are accustomed to the frenetic pace that we have self-imposed on ourselves and when we disconnect from all that media machines, we feel something is missing in our daily lives.”
- “I realized I’m addicted to technology, I could not even go without listening to music on the iPod.”
- “But I had some failures, like turning on the radio while I was showering, but I realized in time and turned it off. The situation amused me because it allowed me to realize how attached my routine is to social media.”
- I think I have an addiction… I cannot go a day without doing between 1 tweet and ten, or not opening my Gmail account. Logging into Messenger, Facebook and other applications are necessary for me to go to sleep in peace.”
Digital natives, all: Students around the world share a sense of belonging to the digital world that transcends geographical boundaries. As with students in other countries, many students in Argentina were struck by the dominating role that media and media devices have come to play in their lives.
- “I think that our generation lives with the media – it was born and raised that way – and unfortunately, those without access end up behind.”
- “We live in a very consumeristic society in which the media play a key role. You are bored so you turn on the TV, and if you want to find anything you go to a PC, where you start to hack around on MSN, Facebook, Google etc., etc..”
The pain of unplugging: Much like students in other countries, those in Argentina suffered without their normal media routines – many felt the pain of loneliness. They didn’t just struggle with the assignment, but experienced mood changes as a result of being disconnected.
- “The first thing I noticed is that in the absence of media, I could not contact anyone to do anything.“
- “It was hard not to hear anything from anyone and to have no one hear anything from me… Sometimes I felt ‘dead.’”
- “I cannot. I feel empty. I feel isolated.“
Failure because they felt too isolated: Like many of the students in other countries, students in Argentina struggled to complete the assignment at all, in large measure because how severed they felt from friends and relatives.
- “I live 1,000 miles from my family…and the phone, whether mobile or fixed, is one of the tools that I use all day. My friends are in the same situation, living alone, so we are constantly communicating by phone and MSN. I think today it would be impossible to live without these devices.”
- I could not last 24 hours without media consumption. I tried to do it on the weekend but could not because I had to arrange meetings with family and friends via cell phone and land line. I think it’s impossible not to use any media when at work. For both study and our personal lives we need to stay connected and informed.”
- “Today I now see that media are a help; it gives us something we are missing: spiritual arms, the telepathic connection of love, of attachment, of life…. Media unites hearts over distances; it is the ‘necessary’ smile at the computer screen.”
And relative to students in other countries, Argentinians mentioned how much they missed both local and global news, in addition to their social networks.
- “At the end of the day I felt a little anxious to watch TV and learn what was happening in the world, or see something that would entertain me.”
- “But as the hours passed I became more anxious and curious about what I had missed, or unread e-mails or text messages. I definitely felt that it keeps you from being disconnected with what’s happening in the world (nationally and internationally) and particularly the social life: to chat with friends and keep up with new developments.”
- “No, I did not stay away from media all day – particularly since the day I chose for the experiment was the day where former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner was killed. It didn’t take much time to see the repercussions of his death play across the media. Anyway, [his death] helped me realize the importance media have on our lives – especially the Internet – as it is the means by which we instantly view the impact of events as global news.”
…And sweet relief: Although many students found it difficult to disconnect, they commented on what they lost by being so tethered to media. “Personally, I think that by being connected, we lose a little of the direct and personal contact between people,” observed one student. Agreed another: “By being connected each day I think I have lost the ability to interact face-to-face with people and life outdoors.”
- “My virtual friends had to wait until Monday to learn what I ate, what I did and what I think… I didn’t go crazy, I had no nausea and I didn’t have a panic attack. It was a beautiful Sunday.”
- “A psychological effect I can describe is that I rediscovered the relief of being disconnected from the daily maelstrom of media.”
- “It was pretty hard not to check my emails; I accumulated more than 84 in just 24 hours. But I had much more time to study and prepare my lessons.”
- “It was really weird because the consumption of media today is so commonplace. The experience was good, but I prefer to continue to consume media.”
- “Personally it was not a difficult experience, instead it was liberating, but we are immersed in a world where the media have come to be inevitable, even if indirectly, and where not consuming media is equivalent to being marginalized in society.”
- “I felt peace… We all need those moments of disconnection and I really relaxed.”
Quotes may have been edited to regularize spelling and grammar.