Media Are Inescapable


Bar chart (above) expressing how often students reported that they couldn't avoid media in their everyday lives. Click on bar graph to go to full chart.

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Inescapable Media: Students around the world noted that try as they might they could not leave media behind.  As a U.K.-based student noted: “Media are in places that you don’t even expect them to be, and that you don’t realize that they are everywhere, literally.” Students remarked with surprise at how imperceptibly media have crept into their lives at home, at school and work, and even on the streets: “Mobile phones, television, network and so on have unknowingly melted into everyone’s life,” said one China-based student. “Never before [have I] noticed that my own life is full of media shadow.”

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  2. There’s no getting away from media – at least for work: As a U.S.-based student noted, everyone is “obligated during the day at least to use a computer, compared to even five or ten years ago.” Quite a few students in highly developed countries mused that while in their communities one could not avoid using media, that in more “remote places” or in “third world” countries it would be possible to go unplugged.  Yet even the students from the least-developed nations in the study, such as Uganda, commented that they could not imagine how they could work without using media either.  To be unplugged is truly to be “marginalized” within 21st-century society.

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“At home the distractions were everywhere: mobiles ringing, televisions in almost every room, radios here and laptops there. It was like a media jungle.” — Lebanon


Media are ubiquitous: Music flows from speakers in restaurants and through the walls of neighbors’ apartments; television screens hang upon walls in gyms, metro entrances, school buildings and other places of gathering. There was no escape, whether spending the 24 hours at home or doing activities outside: it was impossible to be media-free, students wrote, when trying to avoid roommates playing video games, public buses piping music in the background and bars and restaurants displaying televisions.

  • Chile: “We went to have lunch at a mall. I thought that there it would be easy to go without media since I wouldn’t have my laptop or a TV set near me. But when we got there I realized I was wrong: the whole mall was filled with computers, TVs, and a lot of advertising. I started to realize just how much of our life is related to media.”
  • USA: “Media are absolutely everywhere now and it would be impossible to entirely ignore them, unless you locked yourself in your room and never came out.”
  • UK: “I was very surprised at how difficult it was to completely cut media out for a whole day. I found that media is places that you don’t even expect it to be, and that you don’t realize that it is everywhere, literally.”
  • Lebanon: “I arrived at the metro station and started walking through the stairs. I raised my eyes and one of the things that I have to avoid happened: a plasma screen showing the news. I tried to close my eyes, but it was a sure fact that if I did that I would trip and fall. So I continued walking but in my periphery vision I saw something, and I definitely heard the news.”
  • USA: It was like forcing yourself to live a different life for a day. Media is everywhere and on every little thing. People use to joke to me how my iPhone was an attachment of my own self. I always played it off as a joke until now.”
  • Hong Kong: “I believe that we are really missing something when we are so surrounded by media. We will not explore the world by ourselves but only search it on the Internet. It makes us know about our world less and feel less for our world – so we are far away from our world.”

Many students reported that they felt the only true way to escape media was to lead a purposely sheltered life — away from technology, away from “civilization.” Despite differences in culture, geographic location and economic well-being, students across the globe remarked that media were omnipresent.

  • Argentina: “I think that today no one can escape from the media that are everywhere.”
  • Mexico: “For all this, as a society there is no way to escape from the media, we see and hear newscasts, soap operas, videos, etc. There is no day without hearing music, twittering or commenting on a picture of someone on Facebook.”
  • Lebanon: “You cannot escape the billboards seen on the road. You have to purposely try not to look out but something always seems to jump at you.”
  • China: “Kiosks on the street are displaying newspapers with the latest headlines, TV screens are installed inside metro stations and music is played in every supermarket. The only chance to avoid media completely is to lock yourself into your room or travel to some remote place. But in the city it’s nearly impossible.”
  • Argentina: We are immersed in a world where coming across media is inevitable, even if indirectly, and where [if you don't consume media] it is equivalent to being marginalized by society.”


“Sometimes it’s very funny when you walk into a place with Internet connection or any media surrounding, where people are connected all the time. There are moments that they are really doing nothing – but to be with media has become almost a necessity.” — Mexico


Homework is media work: Not only did students feel that avoiding media forced them to miss out from social activities, but schoolwork as well. Students said that they had to complete homework and communicate with their professors through various types of media.

  • China: “I could not know what was happening with my classes because everything I have to do for the week is sent by mail and the web sites.”
  • Slovakia: “Not only do I work with media at school, but all its forms are surrounding me everywhere.”
  • USA: “It was interesting to me, though, that if I hadn’t done certain school work and taken care of certain personal business beforehand, I would have been obligated during the day at least to use a computer; compared to even five or ten years ago, it’s less and less possible to do certain routine things without using them.”
  • Hong Kong: “To conclude, though we can have alternative entertainment, we still will be tied to the media in order to have work done. We really cannot live without the media, unless we are living in the third world.”
  • Uganda: “The next day [my friends] called, sent mails, informed me since I had missed to meet the bosses to discuss on the progress of the video production course in Kampala. I cannot imagine life without media.”

“As I’m driving I counted 17 people on their phones while driving. I counted 32 people blasting music because I was in traffic on the Belt Parkway and I can hear the music and see the heads bobbing.” — USA


Nostalgia: Some students also compared their experience without media to their media-free childhoods or to low-tech environments. Many seemed to envy those times or places that were less-inundated with media.

  • China: “Whether it is computers, televisions, MP3, game consoles, mobile phones, or network, movies, newspapers, music, they are all the media around us, and now, they have become an indispensable tool in our life, which I am worried about. I am always wondering, why I become so dependent on these media now. When I was a child, I did not have these but I was also very happy everyday. Why? Why it looks like that today?”
  • UK: “I feel that other countries where the media has not as much of an influence are better off in some ways as they know how to communicate properly with each other and entertain themselves without the need of technology.”
  • Argentina: I think that our society uses media in an exaggerated way. Ten years ago not many people had access to them and they were not essential.”
  • Slovakia: I admire people who lived in time when they did not use media.”
  • Mexico: “I realized that unfortunately media and technology are overtaking us.  As a society we are leaving to enjoy ourselves and those around us for living alienated in a technological cyber-reality. We are losing the natural coexistence with family and friends, our ability to admire what is surround us and not just what it is present through a screen.”

Quotes may have been edited to regularize spelling and grammar.