- When all leisure activities are media-related, the result of going ‘unplugged’ is boredom: Students the world over ticked off on their virtual fingers all the things they couldn’t do when media were off limits – including being “on the Internet, browsing news, chatting, listening to music, watching movies,” as one student based in China recalled. The problem was that students couldn’t think of any alternatives to keep them amused. As one student in Chile groused: “I started to think about things to do without media, and found out that actually I couldn’t think of many.”
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- And BTW I get bored really fast: The study wasn’t constituted to investigate whether specific students had attention-deficit disorders, but it was striking how quickly a broad swathe of students got bored. Students told of lasting only a few hours, only a half an hour, only fifteen minutes, or even less time before they ran out of ideas of what to do with themselves and succumbed to boredom.
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- Chores are difficult at the best of time, but well-nigh impossible without media distractions: Students across the world noted that exercise, doing the laundry, commuting to classes, even hunkering down for schoolwork were all so boring without music, TV or Facebooking to keep them simultaneously amused, that many simply couldn’t force themselves to continue. “I usually go gym at around 11 AM, but I canceled this activity because I knew how bored I would get on the treadmill without my MP3,” noted one student from Lebanon. What was left to do? Nothing else but sleep, many students concluded.
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“My 24 hours without media was without a doubt the most boring day of my life.” — USA
Bored, boring & boredom: Students from every country noted how desperately bored they were when they went unplugged. “So I think, my life is very, very boring without the Internet,” complained a student from China. “I was just bored. Very, very bored,” dryly noted a student in England. And a student at a U.S. university said disgustedly: “I didn’t notice any birds chirping or anything that fantastic, I just found myself bored and un-entertained.” The problem that many students mentioned is that all their leisure-time activities are media-related.
- Argentina: “But I had two hours that I did not know what to do because I was bored of reading, studying and organizing … These hours were the most difficult because when I’m bored I watch TV or I get on Facebook (usually the latter).”
- UK: “Before long, boredom set in. I couldn’t play a quick game on my phone, ring my friends for a chat, turn on my laptop and search through shopping sites for things I wish I could afford.”
- China: “This is the worst time: I have nothing to do at the end of the day. The roommate is on the Internet, browsing news, chatting, listening to music, watching movies and so on. Various entertainments have let time pass quickly in the past, but now there’s nothing I can do. There was a kind of feeling: ‘The time is so long.’ I feel restless, bored and very anxious.”
- Uganda: “I will have to admit that it was one of the most boring days – yet interesting – in the recent past I can recall. I remember counting almost every passing hour and trust me… the 24 hrs really seemed like a whole year!”
- Lebanon: “Yes, I knew it would be boring, but it was a lot more boring than I had actually pictured.”
“I was home alone and unable to watch television or listen to music or use the computer. The next three hours were pure torture, because I was in the living room doing literally nothing.” — Mexico
Failure of imagination: Many students, from all continents, had difficulty even coming up with ideas about how to fill up their empty hours.
- UK: “I literally didn’t know what to do with myself. Going down to the kitchen to pointlessly look in the cupboards became regular routine, as did getting a drink.”
- Chile: “I kept doing the experiment, and I started to become very bored. Tiding up without music from my iPod or the radio or TV to make me company was so boring. I started to think about things to do without media, and found out that actually I couldn’t think of many.”
- Mexico: “I resigned myself to lie in bed and tried to see the walls but they were covered with posters of artists, footballers, actors and one very large poster of Spiderman 3.”
- Slovakia: “I laid on my bed and realized that I`m very bored. I stared at my laptop for at least quarter of hour, but then I got an idea, that I can use this time to improve myself. I started exercise and after ten minutes I gave it up, and was bored again.”
- UK: “I realize now I should have attempted to spend my time without media doing something quite productive. Instead I chose to sit on my bed and stare at the ceiling, which was such an awful idea now that I think about it.”
The problem of short attention spans: Particularly noteworthy was how quickly students became bored and lost interest in the alternative activities they did come up with. Some students became bored within a few hours; others in even less time than that.
- China: “After 15 minutes without using media, my sole feeling about this can be expressed in one word: boring.”
- UK: “Within half an hour of ‘turning myself off’ I had eaten 3 bits of toast and half a tub of ice cream simply through boredom.”
- USA: “There was literally no technology I could use to distract me from the boring nothing of my Sunday night.”
No entertainment media? As students from all over reported, they were used to using media – especially music and social networking – to entertain themselves. “My breakfast was extremely boring and slow since I usually do it while watching TV,” observed a student from Mexico. Doing chores without media made the ‘chore’ really a ‘chore,’ many complained. “Tidying up without music from my iPod or the radio or TV to make me company was so boring,” sighed a student in Chile.
Even going for a run seemed almost impossible to manage without being able to listen to music. “9.00-9.30: Went for a jog,” wrote a student from Lebanon. “Usually, I would go for a longer jog but I got bored very quickly without music and therefore cut it short.”
And sitting in class without being able to retreat to a smartphone? Boring. “School was more boring than I could imagine, said a student from Slovakia. “Students had their heads in their hands, trying just listen to what the teacher is talking about. I almost slept.”
- China: “During the class, feeling bored, I wanted to take out my cell phone to go online, and watch the news, chat on the QQ. But with no mobile phone I can’t do anything. Only sit there.”
- USA: “I found myself very bored in class as Facebook via my phone or texting usually keeps me occupied during boring lectures.”
Without the radio yesterday, I had to sleep in the car to find relief of the boredom. I kind of had lost interest in life.” — Hong Kong
Students especially complained that commuting to school – by car, public transport and even by bike – without being able to play music, was absolutely deadly.
- USA: “It was the longest and most boring car ride of my life. I was by myself, without radio, and no cell phone.”
- Hong Kong: “I feel so bored without computers and phones. When I was on the metro, I had nothing to do, I used to check email or browse the Internet on my iPhone or listen to music. But being un-plugged, I had nothing to do but to stare at other people using their phones.”
- UK: “The journey to meet my class mates was a very boring and long one, a twenty-minute bike ride with no iPod!”
What was left to do? Many students decided that sleep was the only way to count down the hours.
- Chile: “When I came home and couldn’t use internet or television, I didn’t know what to do with my time. After a while I got bored and went to sleep.”
- USA: “I was able to eat and go to bed really early because I was bored and didn’t know what to do other than sleep.”
- Hong Kong: “I had nothing to do and felt bored. So I slept again.”
- Slovakia: “I was very bored. I tried to sleep the longest I could.”
- UK: “I picked a day when I was free as I had planned to sleep for much of the time, but I wish I had picked a day when I busy so I had something to keep my mind from using the media in any form, even just out of boredom.”
- China: “If I can’t play with my mobile phone, what can I do? It makes me very bored and not relaxed. Eventually, I don’t do anything but sleep.”
Quotes may have been edited to regularize spelling and grammar.