“No phone meant I couldn’t text to see everyone’s whereabouts. I had only been awake for two hours and already I was experiencing the effects of life without the media.” – UK


  1. Texting is contact, Facebook is identity: Texting, BBM-ing, Skype chatting, tweeting, QQ-ing. Short messages are passed among friends on a variety of mobile and computer-based platforms. But the point is the same:  to connect NOW to friends in a brief and controlled way. That’s why even when students are in the midst of updating their Facebook profiles, they are also simultaneously rapid-fire messaging, and often to different people in different ways.

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  2. Just as there are Facebook ‘friends,’ there are texting ‘friends’: Most – if not all – of the friends students reported texting, were friends in their inner circle; students commented that there was a hierarchy of friends they especially cared to hear from.

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Step Away from the Keypad:

R u still alive? U aren’t answering ur txts today!!!

Students taking part in this day without media were likely to get some variation of this message from friends wondering why they were failing to respond to text messages.

Overall, students reported that they felt their connectedness to their friends was jeopardized by their inability to immediately respond to texts over the course of the 24 hours they went without media. Said one U.S.-based student: “Usually I am constantly bbming my friends and checking Facebook on my phone.

Most people could not stand to be without texting because they could not bear the thought of being excluded from anything their friends were doing.

  • USA: “Also, to make matters worse, whenever I heard my phone vibrate, I felt pressured to see who texted me, to see what was said, and to send a response.”
  • USA: “I realized that I am always texting people, whether it is during class, in between classes, or just sitting in my dorm. For some reason I feel the need to constantly be communicating with someone.

People used texts to plan, but also to know the latest gossip and news about their friends. A few people mentioned getting texts from sites like ESPN.com to stay informed of sports scores, but most people wrote that going without texting left them excluded from the lives of their friends, almost as if they would be forgotten.

  • UK: “Probably the worst part of the experiment was avoiding Blackberry Messenger or ‘bbm’…. I bbm my boyfriend pretty much every hour, despite him living in Bournemouth too. I really struggled to resist the temptation of just picking up my phone and quickly sending him a small message about my day.”
  • China: “At the class time, I suddenly wanted to use my cell phone. I had the feeling that someone was sending me messages and that he had something urgent to notify me; or I should send messages to others, but what is the content, I did not know…”
  • Slovakia: “I got a text message from my friend while getting ready to go to school. I found it inappropriate not to answer. What if it was something very important? It said she couldn’t come to the meeting we had arranged the day before, so reading the text saved time I could have wasted waiting for her to come.

“I really wanted to do something like text a friend or play one of my cell phone games; there were one of the longest 15 minutes of my life. Here I realized my second symptom: I really missed my cell phone more than any other of my gadgets.” – Chile

Texting is the glue of social life: Around the world, students reported that they felt a need to check their phone when the blinking light or beeping noise on their phone indicated a text message was waiting. In part the stress came from who they thought might be trying to contact them:  boyfriends, girl friends, friends who they were planning to be with.

  • Chile: “Everyone was trying to contact me to figure out how we would get together and organize the night.”
  • USA: “After my first class Friday I completely forgot about not using media and instinctively reached for my phone to see if any of my friends wanted to meet for lunch. I sent and received a few people text messages before I realized what I was doing.”
  • UK: “I found it hard not to text my boyfriend as I am so used to doing that as our main way of communicating during the day.”
  • China: “I picked up the mobile phone, just to send a text message, but suddenly remembered that I can not use the phone. I know that I must adapt to make it through the day. Oh, I was feeling so empty!”
  • UK: “At around 6 o’ clock, I was missing the sound of my text messaging alert and didn’t realize how dependent I really was on it. It is my source to find out the time as well as contacting people.”

“This is really a time suck”: As with many other types of communication, texting can be a burden. Several U.S. students, especially, commented that they felt a sense of relief when forced to be without text messaging for 24 hours. Other students remarked that they were far more productive without the ability to send texts.

Students also observed, with some amused relief, how unplugging phones saved them from those “annoying friends” they don’t really care about.

  • USA: Without any form of media though I got a lot more work done. If I was able to use my phone I probably would have been texting or on the phone and not doing what I needed to do. “
  • USA: “It is kind of disgusting how we can’t go more than an hour without checking our Facebook or responding to a text message because when it comes down to it no one really ‘needs’ the internet or cell phones to survive.”
  • USA: “Not having to answer annoying people that text and call me was very refreshing.”

Quotes may have been edited to normalize spelling and grammar.