Benefits of Unplugging

Bar chart (above) expressing how often students reported benefits in going


  1. “Simplify, simplify”: Across the globe, some students turned out to be Transcendentalists-in-the-making:  “As you simplify your life,” wrote author Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century, “the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” At least some students noted that they “were able to revert to simple pleasures” when they gave up all media for 24 hours. Others observed that their time unplugged gave them the “opportunity to live in a more silent world where [they] could find more peace.”

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  2. ‘Face’ time and ‘Me’ time: Having time to talk. Fully hearing what is being said. Intense thinking. Creative thought. No one to disturb me. These are some of the takeaways that students spoke of. Unplugging meant that students had more time to share themselves with others – and there was more of themselves to share.

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“As soon I got used to it [being without media] I felt happy and unrestrained. I had enough time and space to do what I really like. There was no need to worry about other things. No one to disturb me. I could take a walk along the pathways in my school as much as I like. I could sit beside the lake shore to enjoy the nature and the beauty of the lakes and mountains. Bring a book with me. It couldn’t be better in my heart.” — China

Freedom and the other stuff: Some students reported that they did not let their lack of media stop them from enjoying their day. They described that they found the time “off” invigorating, even liberating. These students wrote they took their day without media as an opportunity to do things that they would not normally do, such as visiting relatives, playing board games or simply going for a walk and having face-to-face conversations.

  • Slovakia: “Spending 24 hours without any media turned out to be difficult in some ways and at the same time kind of liberating. Instead of all these ‘media things,’ I had more free time for many generous things. Reading a book, jogging, just walking through a park and listening to the birds and watching around what are people doing.”
  • UK: “Ultimately, it proved rather liberating and peaceful to simply lead a life with no intervention from any media.”
  • Argentina: I realized the call of FREEDOM. Being without being, to exist without existing.”
  • China:I invited my fellows to play badminton and enjoy the sunshine in our beautiful campus, chatting, laughing, eating, drinking, wandering, etc.”
  • Uganda: The positive of the day was that I actually read a lot of school handouts that I could not have been able to read on a ‘normal’ day.”
  • USA: “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.”
  • Hong Kong: This experiment also gave me an opportunity to live in a more silent world where I could find more peace. I shut down all media devices and stayed away from them so I could enjoy a one-day peace not connected to anyone.”

“Media put us close to the people who are far away but they separate us from the ones who are nearby.” — Mexico

Talking one-on-one: Many participants reported that they made it through their day without media by spending uninterrupted “face” time with friends or family.  Some students acknowledged a paradox, however: feeling alienated from friends since they couldn’t reach them with a text or call or email, yet a new-found closeness to people they bothered to see in person – and an appreciation of just hanging out without media distractions.

  • UK: I have legs, which I now believe are underestimated as a social tool, as they allowed me to go and see people and communicate with them wirelessly.”
  • Lebanon:Everything grows from this ‘need’ to communicate with each other faster and with less compromise than talking face-to-face.”
  • Chile: “I can say I had a great time not being distracted by time and energy-consuming media features but having time that allowed to consciously focus on things like intense thinking about all sorts of thoughts as well as sharing these with a friend by having time to talk.”
  • Slovakia: “My days during university study are very busy, so the good thing about not using media was the fact that I dedicated more time to my hobbies and 6-year-old brother, with whom I played cards and other games.”
  • Mexico: 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.”
  • Hong Kong: I was happy to have spent ten hours with my friend without the interruption of the media.”

“Without media, I found out that there are people around me.” — Slovakia

See also what U.S.-based students considered benefits here.

Quotes may have been edited to regularize spelling and grammar.