4. Advantages of unplugging

Technology’s not the problem.  It’s that I waste my time…

Effectively all those who succeeded in the homework challenge said that without the distraction of Facebook, text messages and videos, they spent more time on course work.

  • My morning routine was completely different; I couldn’t check my phone, email, weather, or watch Sportscenter. My morning was not rushed; it was quiet and seemed slow. It was actually somewhat peaceful. Walking to class all day was different since I couldn’t listen to my iPod. This caused me to look around more at other people and actually pay attention to what was going on around me. Classes went better since I couldn’t text or get on the Internet, I took better notes and was more focused. I ate lunch alone because I couldn’t text anyone to meet up. Not only did I eat alone, but I of course couldn’t use my phone, iPod, or laptop, so I just sat there until I decided to look through some notes – which was actually productive.”

While most didn’t enjoy the day-off, they reported that they had prepared for exams, settled down to routine homework and read novels. Quite a few students noted their surprise at how productive they actually could be.

  • “Studying was a million times more productive without the media distracting me with texts, calls, Facebook, email, games and other random internet sites.”
  • “Over my 24 hours without media, I finished an entire novel, and started a second one.”
  • “I was very productive in my schoolwork and I was able to get ahead this week with all my midterms coming up.”
  • “I spend way too much time on my computer doing basically nothing, and it was actually a relief to step away from that and spend time doing other things.”

Surprise!  Staying focused in class helps me learn more

Students who use laptops in class aren’t only taking notes.  While keeping one ear tuned to the professor, they are simultaneously checking emails, updating Facebook, and chatting with friends via instant messengers.  As the  assignment made both laptops and cell phones off limits in other classes, students said that without the temptation of their computers and cell phones they learned more.

  • “I also found that I paid more attention during lecture without the temptation of Facebook.”
  • “I found that I was able to pay more attention in class on Monday, instead of checking my Blackberry constantly to see if I got any messages or emails….[and] not having my computer in class was less distracting since I was not tempted to check my Facebook every second.”
  • “Before I began the 24-hour period with no media, I would have never started to study for a test 3 days before the test. With more time to study though, I ended up easily getting an A on my test, something that I have rarely done since getting to college. I actually went into the test feeling prepared and confident.”
  • “From this experience I have learned that concentrating fully on the task at hand and not a media distraction [leads] to a more positive result.”

Who knew that “quality time” meant “media-free” time?

Quite a few observed that they unexpectedly became aware of aspects of their life which they had been rather oblivious to.  Some students reflected on their media-free experience by saying that they caught up with their priorities and spent more quality time with their loved ones. Instead of their normal internet “news” checkup in the morning, they made themselves a “much more balanced” breakfast. Some reported that they had more time and desire to cook a nice dinner for themselves and their families. During their media-free day, student went to the gym and, in general, reported more face-to-face interactions with friends.

  • “It’s the easy access, fast connection, and genuine boredom of our society that has caused a day without media to be so difficult. I think about those who aren’t connected to media outputs the way Americans, in particular, are, and I find it both a combination of upsetting and lucky. Those people are unable to be as interconnected on a global scale, but probably have better people-skills because they have their conversations the old-fashioned way, not through texting.
  • “I definitely picked up on more details and things about the people I live around that I had never noticed before.
  • “I usually see a lot of my friends or people I know on my way to class and not having my iPod on with my earbuds in my ear gave me the excuse to actually have a conversation on my way to class.”
  • “Life is not as boring as it would seem to be without cell phones, television, and the internet. My parents grew up without any of these things and said that as teenagers, they never felt bored. I had a taste of their experiences and thoroughly enjoyed the alone time I had with my boyfriend.”
  • “I felt like walking to class would be tough without my iPod, which I normally listen to on all my walks. I was wrong though. It was actually really nice not having my ear buds in. I looked around, saw things I never really looked at before, and even had a good, silent lunch.”
  • “I decided to go outside and shoot some baskets like I used to do back when I was in high school.”
  • “I found a book i had lying around that i had not yet finished, and read for two solid hours.  This turned out to be the most enjoyable part of my Sunday. I had completely forgotten how much I enjoyed reading a real book.”
  • I also realized how much media causes me to miss out on physical fitness and healthy eating habits. I felt so much better about myself after working out and actually eating 3 hearty meals in one day for the first time that I can remember.”

On balance, perhaps I learned something…

Although the assignment of being media-free for 24 hours stunned most students, at the end most students found a kind of equanimity with the outcome of the media-free day.

There were those students who expressed feeling relaxed, care-free, peaceful and serene, saying they felt mellow, like they were on vacation.

  • “This assignment allowed me to take a step back and reflect. I probably had more ‘thinking time’ that day than any day spent at college.
  • “After 24 hours of giving up Facebook, I thought I would challenge myself further to do a week. So far I’ve done it and it actually feels great! I believe that I’ve been much more productive since giving up Facebook, having more time on my hands to do various chores such as cleaning different parts of my house.”
  • “I must say a good thing that came out of this assignment was I was able to be more aware and [knowledgeable about] my surroundings while I walked to and from class. By not being able to listen to my iPod, I could hear natural sounds like birds chirping or … people calling my name.”

Others said they didn’t enjoy the experience, but they felt proud of themselves for making it through a whole day without using their cell phone or Internet.  The best news? Everyone was thrilled when it was over.

  • “Overall, it was a good experience to wait 24 hours to use technology, but it is something that I never want to do again!”