- I can’t cope, my phone is turned off: Students in Lebanon reported that while life unplugged was not easy, it might have been manageable… if only the professor hadn’t confiscated their Blackberry phones for 24 hours.
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- On a ‘normal’ day, it’s not the big things that are irritating, it’s the minor annoyances: No use of a phone alarm to wake up leads to irritated roommates and almost-missed classes. No music during a commute leads to road rage. No texting ability leads to no social life in the evening. Sigh.
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- Actually, the experiment, you know, was kinda great: A strikingly large number of students in Lebanon saw the up-side of the world Unplugged experiment. Hmmm…. I really CAN be more productive when I’m not distracted by Facebook and Skype Chat.
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“When I came back to the dorms I saw the vending machine in front of me but in my head it was like: ‘I can’t eat from it.’ But then I remembered that I was only deprived from media, not food! So I concluded the fact that media has a big impact on me – to the extent that I felt like I was fasting.”
I think I’m addicted!: Students reported that they desperately missed their Blackberrys and iPhones. Students wrote that having to stay off the Internet, especially for homework assignments, was challenging, but with some advanced planning they could time-shift their projects. Not so their plans to rendezvous with friends, to call home and relieve their parents about their whereabouts. But even beyond the communication needs, students admitted that they just physically missed holding – and hearing – their phones.
- “At the beginning, the task seemed absolutely impossible. Especially that I had to go through 24 hours without my cell phone (my connection to the outer world).”
- “This unplugged project made me realize that I am an addict of Blackberry Messenger.“
- “The idea of my phone kept jumping into my mind, I was not eager to message or call anyone, I was more eager to just ‘see’ my phone in front of me.”
- “I would be dishonest if I say that I wasn’t checking for my phone every now and then. I could even swear I heard it ring once.”
- “While studying at the library I kept hearing the sound of my Blackberry messenger ringing over and over in my ears…. it was haunting.”
- “On my way back from university yesterday, at around 4:00 pm I walked through the main road of Hamra looking through my bag every few minutes to check if I had lost my phone, forgot it somewhere or left it at home, only to find myself continuously reminding myself that I had given my cell phone to my professor for a 24 hour going without media. I thought it was very interesting that not only has media become a way of life, but patterns in our everyday life like ‘always checking for our phone’ affect us.”
- “When I got my phone back I was happy, but I knew that this [Blackberry] obsession is bad and that I do need to reduce my bbm usage because it’s just horrible…. I learned that I must control this addiction or else it’ll only get worse!”
- “I was with my friend’s younger sister talking to her about this last night and she had just gotten a new laptop for her birthday. She is 16 and actually told me that if she didn’t have a cell phone she would die.”
Minor annoyances: Like many of their counterparts from around the world, students based in Lebanon frequently mentioned how difficult it was to survive a day without any form of media. It was the petty things that drove students in Lebanon crazy: not being able to film “a hilarious scene with two kittens,” not being able to sing along with the car radio, having to write a paper longhand and use a dictionary to look up words.
- “It made me think how dependent we are on this stuff. I use my phone to wake up in the morning. Today I had my father wake me up… The most annoying thing was not knowing what time it was all day and night and this morning.”
- “I realized how dependent I am on music! I was going nuts in the car without music. I tried singing to myself but that was not so helpful.”
- “11.00-12.15- Driving to university, without music! With traffic! I don’t think I have ever been such an angry driver! I felt like I was driving for hours. This goes to show how much music and radio shows help in making my trip seem shorter.”
- “4:00PM – I’m in class and we get a 5 minutes break. Everyone starts texting, responding to messages or calling their friends to make plans for later. Not me.”
- “I usually go to the gym at around 11 AM, but I canceled this activity because I knew how bored I would get on the treadmill without my mp3 (player).”
- “But I was extremely tired and I just went to bed where I had a hard time sleeping because I am used to watching 30 minutes of TV every night or at least going through popular websites on my Blackberry and I was definitely not in the mood of reading the book that was lying next to my bed!”
- “At about 4 pm, every urge and habit that kicked in the second I walked into my apartment got shot down, and it was irritating. My thought process was: Laptop? No. It’s okay I’ll just watch some TV. No. Fine, I’ll just lie in bed and play Fruit Ninja on my iPhone. NO NO NO! Then there was that awkward silence when I realized I didn’t know what to do.”
“What really bothered me and made me feel ‘tied down’ was the inability to do what I wanted, when I wanted it.”
Socially Disconnected: Students based in Lebanon spoke about being surrounded by media – on the street, at the university, at home. And the ubiquity of media perversely made students feel more alone during their day unplugged; they felt “dis-attached,” as one student wrote: as if they had been intentionally excluded from the society around them.
- “This experience was not how I imagined it would be. Yes, I knew it would be boring, but it was a lot more boring than I had actually pictured. Well, maybe boring isn’t the word, it was definitely a long day, a surreally long day.”
- “But I didn’t realize it would be so isolating, because at the end of the day, this is the one word that sticks in my mind when I think of this whole thing: isolated.”
- “I felt as though I was ‘lost’ in a void. It was a very unusual and uneasy feeling. I felt like I was dis-attached from the world completely, as if everyone around me was doing something but I was ‘left behind.’”
- “At home the distractions were everywhere; mobiles ringing, televisions in almost every room, radios here and laptops there, it was like a media jungle..”
- “I felt isolated from the others and I had to stay locked in my room because I could not watch TV.”
LOTS more productive: A majority of students, even those who found going media-free challenging or impossible, reported that on balance they had found the experiment to be both a healthy one and an enlightening one. Students wrote about being more productive, having more energy, connecting with more people. And they also wrote about learning that they should set some limits to how they use media, even if they can’t do without it.
- “However it was good to get a ‘break’ from the outside world for a bit, and from constant calls, messages, and emails.”
- “I spent time with my friends that were on the same floor as me and I got to know new things about them and socialize. But at the same time, I actually helped my friend with her homework which I know I wouldn’t have done if my laptop was open. I even thought of going to the gym because I found out that I truly had free time for once. What I found interesting is the fact that I had this kind of energy that I usually don’t get after a four hour Basic Design course. I actually went back to the studio to finish one of the projects I had pending. It felt so good because I got rid of an important assignment.”
- “It was an interesting experience, and it helped me work more on my studies, which was needed. So maybe I will ask the teacher one day to take my phone again in the future…”
- “The fact that I didn’t use the laptop last night really made a difference. It was hard indeed but it felt much better. And now I actually agree with my mom when she says: ‘The internet is a waste of time. Go do something useful instead.’”
- “What I mainly realized is that I can live without media for such a period of time and maybe for more, because when you really get off the media you realize how much free time you have and how many quality things you can do. I really liked this experience and I liked the challenge and the will that it required.”
Quotes may have been edited to regularize spelling and grammar.