No cell phone, television, computer or even video games for 24 hours. This is the challenge that a UQAM professor launched to more than a hundred of her students last fall, in full confinement. The experience, easier said than done, prompted them to start thinking about their use of the screens that they recently shared outside of university.
“At the beginning it was difficult, I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted to look at my phone, ”says Rosalie Guay, 21. The film student still remembers those 24 hours of disconnection made in December. “I thought the day would never end,” she adds, laughing.
She had however found the idea “very interesting” when professor Katharina Niemeyer, who gives the course Introduction to theories of media communication, offered them this educational exercise at the beginning of the fall session.
In a context of a pandemic that forced students to be more connected than ever – distance courses on Zoom, virtual shows and happy hours with friends on Messenger – the professor at the École des Médias wanted to offer them a break from the screens while by encouraging them to reflect on their use of media and technologies.
At first, I just wanted to look at my phone. I told myself that the day would never end!
“This is the first time I have offered this. […] I didn’t expect so much openness from them. They delivered very intimate projects, with great sensitivity and depth, ”she says.
Students had the option of submitting a report of their disconnection in the form of written text, video or podcast. Of the 150 or so registered for the course, only a handful were unable to take part in the game for personal reasons. The others learned so much from this experience that they wanted to share it with the general public on a website launched last month, under the coordination of Mr.me Niemeyer.
Far from wanting to lecture, this site is intended as a way to encourage anyone to think about their digital consumption by providing “leads to (re) connect with oneself and others”, we can read.
Who would have thought that in just 24 hours of disconnection, there would be so much learning? In their stories, many students say they took the opportunity to spend more time with their families.
This is the case of the interactive media student Florence Chénier-Jacques. “I learned a lot more about my parents and my sister in one day than living with them for 19 years,” she says. Although she said she was close to her family, her phone was never far away when she spent time with them, which affected the quality of their exchanges. “There I was more present, more alert, I asked them questions, I wanted to know what they were doing during their day, how they were doing. “
Far from the distraction of their blue screens, other students stress having returned to old hobbies to which they no longer attached importance: painting, reading, writing, cooking, etc.
I learned a lot more about my parents and my sister in one day than living with them for 19 years
And since this was the required work, most of course took the time to think about their use of the screens. Many have realized that they are dependent on their cellphones, some have even confessed to having cheated during the exercise to send a text.
“I understood that I was more addicted than I thought, confides Rosalie Guay, who still resisted the temptation. […] It’s mostly a reflex, your phone is your 3e hand today. But I was also afraid of missing something, that I would be texted for something serious, that I would miss a bickering of friends. “
The famous FOMO (« fear of missing out »), This fear of missing something, many others have expressed it in their own way. And it is above all a criticism of their use of social networks in particular that emerged from these confidences.
“Everyone knows it’s a toxic relationship, but we can’t get rid of it, because [les réseaux sociaux] are also a way of getting away from it all and staying connected with our friends ”, analyzes Florence Chénier-Jacques. This short break allowed her to breathe a bit and to release from this social pressure which pushes her to compare herself to others permanently.
“Often we look at others, telling ourselves that we would like the same life as them, the same silhouette as them. We always want better without realizing that what we have, how we are, is also very good. “She also specifies in her text that this short disconnection” offered her a step towards the acceptance of [son] corps. »
“I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, which took a lot of things away from everyone, or this experience without a screen, but I started to regret the times I spent when I stayed on my cell while I was with my friends and my family, says Rosalie Guay. Now I enjoy the present moment a lot more. […] I try to be careful, I really use my phone less. “
However, we must not deny the interest of these digital devices which are now part of our daily lives, she adds. “It keeps us connected. I am in a long distance relationship and without it it would be difficult. “
Florence Chénier-Jacques also says that she has reduced her use of screens since her experience. She also says she has a “different outlook” on herself and her use of social media.
“I think I will do this experience again,” says Professor Niemeyer. It was very interesting and beneficial for the students. “