- French documentary filmmaker BrutX conducted a month-long experiment with six volunteers.
- They were challenged to live without using any screens, including smartphones and televisions, for a month.
- Paris-based Chiekh, 28, said he found not having access to Instagram “too much”.
Is it possible to live without a smartphone or television now that these devices have become an integral part of many people’s lives?
This is what a journalist sought to find out in a TV documentary released last year on a French streaming platform called GrossX.
Tarik Khaldi found six volunteers to take part in an experiment called “Deprived of Screens” and asked them to live for a month without using a device or television.
Two couples and two sisters took part in the experiment, although the sisters, aged 15 and 10, only did it for a week. Neuroscientist Albert Moukheiber said in the documentary that screens make people “sedentary”.
One of the couples, Cheikh and Yaaba, both 28 and living in Paris, said screens were an integral part of their lives, and Cheikh admitted to being addicted to Instagram.
On the first day of the experiment, his partner Yaaba was worried about the silence caused without television. This prompted them to buy a record player.
On the fourth day, Yaaba said her husband was “depressed” as Sheikh could be seen lying on their couch. “I feel things, but I don’t know what,” he said. “I know something is going on in my body.”
“I clearly feel a void,” said Cheikh. “I don’t have Instagram, or anything. It’s too much. I didn’t sign up for it.”
During the experience, Sheikh realized that he would not be able to see what his relatives and friends were up to without having access to their Instagram posts and stories.
His mother, who offered to take part in the experiment, told him that social media makes people feel like they are living “a reality that is not real”.
A fortnight into the experiment, Yaaba told a producer, “All this screen-free time has helped me define what I really love, what drives me and excites me.”
Sheikh revealed that not being constantly focused on a smartphone allowed him to hear his own thoughts.
The couple traveled to Venice, Italy, but resorted to downloading navigation apps when they had trouble getting their bearings.
Moukheiber said smartphones enabled what he described as “immediacy”. Removing it meant people weren’t “happy”, he added.
A few days after their trip to Italy, Cheikh had another mistake and took to Instagram at work, but said it was not a “moment of weakness”. The neuroscientist said the decision was “the faith of the bath”, but that “very little depends solely on someone’s will”.
At the end of the experiment, Sheikh vowed not to download Instagram again – but it was unclear if he would be able to maintain his resolve.