Ever gone without Facebook for a few hours? How about a couple of days? Imagine that — life without social media, a social media "fast," if you will. Essentially, this assignment entails no access to basic media outlets including Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. However, that also means other helpful apps including the ride sharing app, Uber, and food delivery app, Postmates, are off limits. And of course cameras, televisions and even music are not allowed. How could college students possibly take on such a daunting task? Here are their stories.

As a requirement to pass the Communication Studies' Nature of Theory (CMST 1600-01) course at Loyola Marymount University, students are required to undergo two days without engaging in any and all digital media. I worked closely with two fellow students to summarize our findings. At the end of our fast, we interviewed each other about our experiences. I have included a few of the quotes from my interviewees and I also implemented my own findings throughout the article.

  • What did you learn from being without media for for 48 hours?

"I really don't think that I could imagine a world without technology," freshman Communication Studies major Abi McGarvey states, "Everything I do in my daily routine revolves around media...from using my alarm or using my phone while walking to class."

Was it hard for you to unplug? 

"For me it was really hard because I had gotten in the habit of using my phone. I felt really alone and detached since I was the only one not using my phone out of all my friends," McGarvey said.

How did you keep busy?

"I was able to get so much homework done. I even made use of our gym! Without media I found that my productivity increased." — Freeman

What did this unplug teach you about the way you use media?

"This media unplug taught me that a lot of things that I don't even think of using media for are still considered 'media consumption," freshman Communication Studies major Tygre Patchell-Evans concluded, "I thought I'd be fine not going on social media for a day, but I didn't think about the other ways we use media such as contacting close friends and family and even paying for things."

This experience has taught me that I use media for daily task completion and information gathering. I observed that without constantly checking everything, I had an “itch,” or habitual inclination to reach for my phone every 30 minutes or so to check my social accounts including Instagram, Facebook and GroupMe. 

Without the ability to instantly search, I experienced a phenomenon known as “FOMO,” or the fear of missing out. The concept of FOMO is outlined in an article by Constance C. Milbourne et al., who argue that, “'Fear of missing out' (FOMO) has been identified as a key concern of users with their communication devices.” The authors have concluded that we often check our social spaces for updates, not so much to connect with others, but, “because of a nebulous fear or discomfort that we will miss out on something significant.”

What did this unplug teach you about the way others use media?

"I observed that others used digital media as often as I did. The day I could check my phone again, I had 60+ unread emails and several text messages which proved that life continues to go on even if I make the decision to rid myself of media."  — Freeman

Sitting alone (without my phone) in a restaurant brought to my attention all the faces that were down staring at a screen. Walking down the sidewalk, I almost ran into several people because they were responding to texts while taking a stroll. Driving in the car, I could tell people didn’t have their eyes on the road, choosing, instead, to check emails.

Experiencing life without social media for 48 hours wasn’t a simple task, especially living in a world revolving around the internet, mass media and globalization. Upon completion of the fast, I discovered that I could manage my time wisely and even thrived without being constantly connected to a device. I found myself being able to truly experience the world around me and live in the present moment with minimal distractions or obligations.

Without digital media, my communication with others is more impactful, thoughtful and purposeful because there is time for everyone to express their thoughts fully and completely. While communicating in person, there is more of an opportunity to activate most of the senses — sight, touch, hearing, movement and body awareness. This allows us to visualize and accurately detect the emotions of our conversation partners, creating more of an authentic feeling of an emotional safe space.

Overall, I concluded that, if necessary, I would be able to live without social media and even become a more content person in its absence. Even today, millions, if not billions of people regularly live without media either by choice or by circumstance. While having access to digital media can be considered a blessing, its tendency to be a devil in disguise is a factor many need to take into consideration.

We challenge you to go unplugged

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