Latest Stories


The world unplugged?


(First of two parts)

“I am bored!” This was the biggest complaint of around 4,000 high school students in our study of media behavior.  Even with a plethora of gadgets at their fingertips, around 85 percent of respondents (roughly half “strongly agree” while the other half “agree”) say they are bored.

For the past three years, counselors Maribel Sison-Dionisio and Ichel Alignay and Ateneo de Manila parents Nesy Fernandez and Chris Peabody and I have been conducting a large-scale study on media behavior of Ateneo and Miriam College high school students.

Future columns will discuss the findings of our study in more detail.  For now, we will just focus on why, as the international study “World Unplugged” found, boredom among our youth seems to be universal in this technological world.


In 2011, the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda of the University of Maryland, with university partners of Salzberg Academy on Media and Social Change, studied around 1,000 college students from 10 countries (Argentina, Chile, China-Mainland, China-Hong Kong, Lebanon, Mexico, Slovakia, Uganda, United Kingdom and the United States).

Students were asked to stop all forms of media use, including watching television, just for one day. They were only allowed to use landlines.

Sadly, in every country, majority of students could not do it. They returned to their cellular phones, laptops, iPods, social networks after just a few hours.

During the short time they spent offline, they experienced panic, anxiety, irritability, depression. And extreme boredom.

Most boring day

The best way to understand this phenomenon is to look at student responses in The World Unplugged site, http://


An American says, “My 24 hours without media was without a doubt the most boring day of my life.”

Many students get bored after less than an hour. A Chinese says, “After 15 minutes without using media, my sole feeling about this can be expressed in one word: boring.”

A Briton says, “The journey to meet my classmates was a very boring and long one, a 20-minute bike ride with no iPod!”

Another Briton says, “Within half an hour of ‘turning myself off’ I had eaten three bits of toast and half a tub of ice cream simply through boredom.”

Even physical exercise is boring without technology. A Lebanese says, “I went to the gym at 6:30 and, of course, exercising without my iPod was a bit annoying because I kept getting bored and distracted without any upbeat music to motivate me. I stopped after 45 minutes and went back home to shower.”

Unsure what to do

In our Filipino study, around 60 percent of Ateneo and Miriam students say they do not know what to do with their time.  Ironic, isn’t it, when they have the entire world at their beck and call?

This finding is confirmed in the international study. Many students do not have creative ways to alleviate boredom. They do not have alternative activities to fill their time.

A Chilean says, “Tidying up without music from my iPod or the radio or TV [for] 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.”

A Slovakian says, “I lay on my bed and realized I was very bored. I stared at my laptop for at least [a] quarter of [an] hour, but then I got an idea—that I can use the time to improve myself. I started [to] exercise [but] after 10 minutes I gave up and was bored again.”

A Briton says, “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.”

School is boring

School, of course, is terribly boring.  In our local study, around 50 percent of students say they find it hard to concentrate on teachers’ lectures in class or on their assignments at home.

When they have to unplug even for just a day, students around the world find the experience excruciating.  A Slovakian says, “School was more boring than I could imagine.  Students had their heads in their hands, trying just to listen to what the teacher was talking about. I almost [fell asleep].”

A Chinese says, “During the class, feeling bored, I wanted to take out my cell phone to go online, watch the news, chat … But with no mobile phone I can’t do anything, only sit there.”

An American says, “I found myself very bored in class. Facebook via my phone or texting usually keeps me occupied during boring lectures.”


Silence, even for just 24 hours, is too painful. A Slovakian says, “I’m addicted to music, so it was really terrible for me. I didn’t like the silence, which was everywhere.”

A Chilean says, “The silence was like an infinity and I thought how different this situation would be if the music was on. I felt awkward, like I was forced to keep on talking. I was anxious to get home fast; the silence was killing me.”

Without music, students find it hard to manage the realities of life.  A Lebanese says, “On my walk back to my place, I had hoped that, without my headphones, I would hear the LIFE of Hamra’s streets. I didn’t. I just heard lots of cars and honking.”

(To be continued next week)

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Boredom , column , High school students , Learning , media behavior , no gadgets , offline , online , opinion survey , queena n. lee-chua

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  2. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  3. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  4. Sandigan junks Marcos family claim to Paoay property
  5. Delfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
  6. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  7. San Juan cops fail to arrest Cedric Lee
  8. Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  9. More ‘Yolanda’ bodies found
  10. Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  3. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  4. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  8. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  9. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima


  • Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury
  • Luisita farmers storm DAR compound
  • Trillanes, Ejercito confident they are not in Napoles’ list
  • Easterlies to prevail in Luzon, Visayas
  • Lacson eyes P106-B ‘Yolanda’ rehab masterplan
  • Sports

  • Mixers trim Aces; Painters repulse Bolts
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • UAAP board tackles new rules
  • Baguio climb to decide Le Tour de Filipinas
  • Lifestyle

  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Entertainment

  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • Business

  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Technology

  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos in Middle East urged to get clearance before returning
  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Marketplace