The website Faculty Focus points us to a recent study that found 200 18- to 21-year-old college students at the University of Maryland experiencing withdrawal-like symptoms following a 24-hour period during which they gave up their mobile phones, iPods, computers, TVs, radios, newspapers, and basically any other forms of media you can think of.As part of the study, which was conducted by the International centre for Media and the Public Agenda and turned into a WordPress website, the students blogged about how their media-less existence made them feel.
They ended up writing the equivalent of a 400-page novel that described the nervous, anxious, antsy, jittery, crazy-feeling misery of being completely unplugged.
Most blog entries, according to the ICMPA, looked something like this:
Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort,” wrote one student. “When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.
Although I started the day feeling good, I noticed my mood started to change around noon. I started to feel isolated and lonely. I received several phone calls that I could not answer,” wrote one student. “By 2:00 pm. I began to feel the urgent need to check my email, and even thought of a million ideas of why I had to. I felt like a person on a deserted island…. I noticed physically, that I began to fidget, as if I was addicted to my iPod and other media devices, and maybe I am.
But are the subjects of the study actually addicted to the media they consume?
That’s how some media reports played it, which Pamela Rutledge takes issue with in Psychology Today.
Identifying an addiction of any kind is important. To my knowledge, however, a college student saying “I’m addicted to Facebook” is not adequate diagnostic criteria for addiction any more than someone saying they are addicted to chocolate or American Idol.
Of course, as a writer, if you can get the word ‘addiction’ in a headline it will draw eyeballs to your copy because it targets people’s fears. (Did it get you to read this?) Since we are all biologically wired to notice danger, especially where kids are concerned, this is a sure-fire way to get someone to read your stuff. I know journalists are all freaking out about the competition from new media. I get the conflict. But this isn’t the time to compromise journalistic standards, it’s the time to shore them up to prove your point about training and objectivity.
So what do you think? Are these kids addicts, or do they just really, really, really enjoy blogs and texting and AIM and logging onto Facebook?
(Sidenote: In case you’re worried you might be developing a social media dependence of you’re own, this quiz might come in handy.)
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