USA: The Benefits

There was good news: Although technology and media have made it easier to stay in touch,” noted one student, “they have made it harder to create real connections.” There were a number of students who wrote about lessons learned – especially about how they differently connected with friends and family when they weren’t texting through life.

“I guess that’s how people used to be able to make it without media; they had better stuff to do.”

Students noted how much they enjoyed fully engaging with parents and roommates – having the kinds of conversations they hadn’t enjoyed since they were young.

  • “After dinner, I didn’t sit down on the couch and watch television like normal. Instead I sat around the table with my family and digested, still conversing. It was weird.”
  • I finally know how annoyed my mom feels when we text during dinner. It is seriously rude! We should be able to participate in a conversation and dedicate our full attention to a person without secretly making plans for that night or gossiping about what went down the night before.”
  • “In the car, since I could not listen to the radio, we talked. It was nice to have a conversation with my dad uninterrupted by cell phones.”
  • When my mom got home I forced her to sit and tell me about her day, which she was thrilled about, and then I begged my sister to play a game of Scrabble with me, which captured my attention for about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, I had to argue with her and then explain to her why we could not watch TV while playing.”
  • “I’ve lived with the same people for three years now, they’re my best friends, and I think that this is one of the best days we’ve spent with together. I was able to really see them, without any distractions, and we were able to revert to simple pleasures. I think the day will be amongst our fonder college memories.”

“I definitely did more schoolwork than ever before. I read my textbooks rather than Facebooking and reading blogs, which takes up hours of my day. I realized how much better of a student I was capable of being.”

Mom was right.  Multitasking does not result in better grades: Students discovered that they could not only be more productive in class and on their homework without texts and tweets and emails pinging in, but they could actually understand their coursework better.  They realized they could be stronger students when they focused and there were no distractions.

  • Going without media made me realize how much time there actually is in a day and how productive it can be.”
  • I found it much easier to pay attention to what the professor was saying because I wasn’t constantly checking emails or ESPN.”
  • “While taking notes in this fashion felt different in that I felt a bit less connected, I definitely felt like I was absorbing more information by writing notes on paper, not being able to take a break from those bullet points to quickly check my Gmail as would inevitably happen when taking notes on a computer.”

The little accomplishments as a result of unplugging: Students also reported getting things done that they had been putting off – both chores that they didn’t want to do, and fun excursions that had seemed like too much of a bother.

  • “In a way, media holds me back because it distracts me from doing things I set out to do. Too often my grand plans are wasted by hours spent either on the computer or in front of the TV. I began to paint my new room, so I was off upstairs for six hours, yes six, just painting away in complete and utter silence.”
  • “Because I had no other distractions, I finally wrote a hand-written thank you note I needed to send my uncle.”
  • “My housemates and I had been talking about going apple picking all summer but instead spent our free days either lazily watching movies or nursing hangovers. The fear of boredom spawning from no media prompted me to make this apple-picking goal of ours a reality. And we did just that.”
  • I then got up and went for a bike ride with my friend. It lasted for an hour and a half, which is great exercise and allowed us to explore the neighborhood. We also took time to drive down to the park and go golfing.”
  • “It was hard for me to be that removed from the world as I know it but I found it a great lesson and it really makes me want to do more things outside.”
  • “I spent a large part of the day posted up on the mall with my guitar. I played a ton of tunes I had known previously and even managed to write one. Musically, my day without media was extremely productive.”

“We had a few friends over and when all other ideas failed, we cracked open some beers and played some card games. It was really fun to be with people and not have to worry about who may be trying to reach me on my cell phone.

Advantages of not being connected: At least some students reported both seeing and listening to more of the world around them. Students reported that when they took their ear phones out, and left their cell phones and laptops at home they were more likely to live in the here and now and notice small pleasures.

  • “It was refreshing to walk in silence on our gorgeous landscape and reflect on my day.”
  • I found myself enjoying listening to campus instead of my iPod as I walked to class. I plan on leaving my iPod at home more often now.”
  • I could actually hear crickets chirping outside because it was that quiet.”
  • “Whenever I walk to class with music I just focus on that, but I really took in everything around me with no music.  I kind of liked that feeling of being able to focus on the present, on my travels to class and back.”
  • “Although it was really challenging, I noticed I was able to live more in the moment.”

“I became more aware with my own thoughts. I realized that maybe it’s important to disconnect every once in awhile and let your brain remember you.

The zen of unplugging: Going unplugged not only encouraged some students to connect to nature and their surroundings, it allowed them to relax and de-stress. Said one: “But what I did notice, aside from not being able to use the Internet and computers for completing work, was that what I was really missing was the noise in my head, distractions, and an imposed sense of haste.” Students recognized the psychological effects of not only being plugged in, but networked 24/7.

  • There’s a sense of relief to be relieved of the self-imposed responsibility of being connected all the time to the world.”
  • Personally, I love the feeling of not being connected, and I wish I could bring myself to do this more often. Unfortunately, it’s kind of inconvenient for my friends. I wish I could just ignore the news, and everything. I wish I could be willfully ignorant.”
  • “I was more interested in what was going on around me, and what was going on in my head. I listened to crickets outside while I ate dinner, just lazed around more – not a bad thing – and went to bed earlier. What this suggests to me is that so much of these media are just distractions for the mind, time-killers, life-fillers.”

Quotes may have been edited to normalize spelling and grammar.