You see it everywhere you go on campus: People texting and talking on their cellies, taking pics with their iPhone, and updating their Facebook account with their latest FourSquare destination. It’s like a whole generation of kids are so wired into social media, they can’t go through a day without it…and maybe that’s the problem.
According to a new study out of the University of Maryland, a majority of subjects admitted they were functionally unable to go without their tech toys for a period of 24 hours. The study, “24 Hours: Unplugged” challenged 200 students at the College Park campus to abstain from their phones, laptops, TV, iPods, and all other media for 24 hours. After their 24 hours were up, students were asked to write about their experiences on a private class blog.
“I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” admitted one person in the study. Many students reported withdrawal symptoms similar to that of alcohol or drug addiction including anxiety, nervousness, and a feeling of helplessness. An overall analysis of students’ repsonses determined that the biggest issue was a overwhelming sense of disconnection from friends and family.
“What they spoke about in the strongest terms was how their lack of access to text messaging, phone calling, instant messaging, email and Facebook, meant that they couldn’t connect with friends who lived close by, much less those far away,” explains project director Susan D. Moeller, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland and the head of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (which conducted the study on campus).
What can we glean from all of this? According to Moeller and her colleagues, today’s college student relies rather heavily on social media and the internet to provide them constant contact with friends and family, while at the same time filling them in on breaking news, gossip, etc. Certainly this isn’t good OR bad thing, but when a reliance on your iPod or Blackberry turns into a situation where you can’t even spend an hour not texting or checking the latest Facebook updates, it’s time to take a step back and try LIVING life instead of reading about it.