- Out of the loop: With no access to cell phones and computers during the world Unplugged experiment, quite a few students in Mexico reported desperation: They had lost their ability to organize their social life, maintain their daily conversations with friends and family, and join their friends’ Facebook, Twitter, BBM and MSN chatter.
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- Boredom sets in: Students reported that their strategies for surviving a day without media – sleeping, eating, hiding out – were insufficient to the task. They quickly discovered that without media they didn’t know what to do with themselves, and as a consequence most failed to go media-free for the entire 24 hours.
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- A measured consideration of lessons learned: Students from Mexico reported very little enthusiasm, if any, for spending a day unplugged. But the lessons they learned were not lost: “Our society is absorbed by media,” as one student observed. “Let’s make media our own and not depend on it, so it will depend on us.”
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“In my experience with this exercise, the truth: The first thing I felt was desperation the second I started to carry it out. Sincerely, I only lasted two hours without being able to use any media.”
Unplugged, unnerved: Reflecting on their 24 hours without media experience, students in Mexico used words such as boredom, frustration and restlessness to describe their state of mind. While some students wrote that their media-free period was a blessing in disguise because it made them more aware of their surroundings, most people who took part in this project said they couldn’t wait to get back to sending texts, e-mailing their friends and logging onto Facebook.
- “As the time went by, I was getting more stressed and I felt a great anxiety to at least turn on my iPod and listen to a song. Then the stress seized me still more. That’s when I started … drawing in my notebook, and that somehow tranquilized me a little…”
- “The truth is: I am addicted to Facebook, Twitter, to be logged into Windows Messenger and BlackBerry, even though I know this is bad because it takes me a lot of time and I am very easily distracted.”
- “I realized that I’m addicted to Facebook and to be always on the computer and that I depend a lot of it to feel like I’m doing something.”
- “Normally I always come home and watch TV, I see a show, turn on the computer and go to Blackberry Messenger. As I could not do any of that I really panicked.”
- “It was surprising to see how desperate I was. I felt a little pathetic.”
- “It was an unpleasant surprise to realize that I am in a state of constant distraction, as if my real life and my virtual life were coexisting in different planes, but in equal time. It was very difficult that day without communication, and when the next day began, the first thing I did was to turn on the computer and the cell phone and catch up with everything that had happened in the previous day.”
Feeling left out of the conversation: Without technology to rely upon, students in Mexico expressed being uneasy, frustrated and in some cases desperate for online contact. There was a pervasive feeling that they were missing out on important digital conversations happening around them. Students felt particularly out of the loop without their cell phones, with several noticing a ‘phantom ringing.’
- “We live in a society that relies heavily on media and that without them we feel isolated and not belonging to anything.”
- “My social environment assumes that we all have access to the media and well oriented communication. Reactions to the fact that I had no access were entirely negative. When I did not go to Facebook or not answer my phone, most people got angry very quickly and there were some who got worried. Also one of the teachers sent me an email job because he assumed I was going to read [his message] that very day. Nobody imagined it could be possible that I would not go at least once a day to the internet or speak on my phone.”
- “Every time I’m at home I watch TV as way of having a company, and I was quite missing it. I did not learn about the two parties that happened on Saturday because I could not check Facebook and… I did not say congratulations to my friends who were celebrating their birthday that day.”
- “My day without media began the night before disconnection: I felt the urgent need to tell my acquaintances that I would not have my cell phone or be connected to the Internet for a whole day. I felt a strange anxiety, I felt like if I would not tell them, something terrible would happen and nobody would be able to communicate with me. The anxiety continued for the rest of the day and various scenarios came to my head, from kidnappings to extra-terrestrial invasions, all emphasized by the fact that my loved ones could not get in touch with me.”
- “This experience told me that I depend on the media to feel calm, safe, included and active. Without doubt, if I decide to disconnect completely, I would be able to do it, but at the expenses of much effort. I feel that my relationships with others would come to a halt because I communicate with them rather by means of the virtual than face-to-face interaction. “
“I thought I could simply stay home all day but it is very difficult to endure so long without watching television, listening to music, reading something or making a phone call. It was a necessity for me to have something to entertain myself.”
A dull day: Students passed on their strategies for making it through the 24 hours unplugged: They’d sleep longer or clean their rooms or go home and hole up with their parents in order to shrink the time to get through. But even with those tactics, students reported that the hours they spent without their cell phones, laptops, TVs and iPods seemed like an eternity. They bored themselves, bored others, and ultimately many of them failed to make it through the entire day.
- “I resigned myself to lie in bed and try to see the walls, but they were covered with posters of artists, footballers, actors and one very large poster of ‘Spiderman 3.’ “
- “I got bored and even lost communication with people who wanted to talk because I was doing nothing.”
- “I could not find anything to do. I started playing with my dog, which I have not done for around 8 years.”
- “To make the time go more quickly I decided to sleep earlier than usual.”
- “I had been disconnected from the media about 13 hours, but I could not complete the challenge of the 24 hours because I was about to go crazy. My life is totally related to the media.”
“On my day without media… I interacted with my parents more than the usual. I fully heard what they said to me without being distracted with my BlackBerry, I helped to cook and even to wash the dishes. However, I did not speak with anyone outside my family, a fact that shocked me.”
‘My world did not end’: Although in the vast minority, a few students rather grudgingly admitted that it hadn’t been so bad and that actually it was ‘relaxing’ to take a break from being connected to the world. Even so, there weren’t any volunteers eager to try the experiment again!
- “It was a big surprise to realize that I have a strong need every day of carrying my phone with me or turning on the TV at some point, but what equally caused me to be surprised was to see that despite not having the technology, my world did not end and everything went on well.”
- “I must confess that at first I was very anxious and stressed for having no contact with the outside world, feeling a constant need to communicate with my friends and to know what was happening outside, but as the hours passed, my detachment to that anxiety became more evident, and little by little I started relaxing and enjoying not being connected with the world.”
- “I thought it would be a little frustrating experience not knowing anything about what was happening in the world, but a small break from everything was very satisfying.”
- What I felt was like I removed a heavy burden off my brain and felt the muscles in my body relax. I did relaxation exercises, sighed a lot and breathed the fresh air of Cuernavaca … I felt relief, I sent everything to “hell” because in this way I didn’t have to worry about what had happened the previous week and what’s to come … I felt that I cut off a load of pressure.”
- “What I believe, in conclusion, about this experience is that human beings are truly disconnected from our inner core. We no longer know who we are. Instead we are co-dependent on technology.”
Quotes may have been edited to regularize spelling and grammar.