Students hooked on social media, study reveals
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, April 28, 2010 10:43PM EDT
Pounding headaches, drumming fingers, feelings of isolation. When 200 students were asked to stop using all forms of media for an entire day, they reported these symptoms and more, revealing addictions many didn't know they had.
The experiment, conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA), had students from the University of Maryland give up their phones, computers, TVs, iPods, even newspapers for 24 hours, and then describe in a university blog how they felt.
The results surprised even the researchers.
"I don't think we really expected students to react quite as strongly as they did," ICMPA director Susan Moeller told CTV's Canada AM Wednesday from Washington.
"We expected them to complain. We expected them to tell us it was hard. We didn't expect people to feel really isolated, frustrated and sort of anxious and all the physical manifestations."
Students talked about being miserable, anxious -- and bored to distraction.
"I definitely felt disconnected and out of the loop and… just lost," student Kimberly Morgan told Canada AM.
Another student wrote: "Texting and IMing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort. When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life."
Others said they had no idea how to occupy themselves without music, the Internet or TV.
"I stared at the wall for a little bit. After doing some push-ups, I just decided to take a few Dramamine and go to sleep to put me out of my misery," one student wrote.
Moeller, who is also a professor of media and international affairs at the University's College of Journalism, says she didn't expect students to enjoy the experiment.
"We knew from the minute that we announced the assignment in class and I got booed and hissed, that students were not looking forward to this assignment," she says.
But even she was surprised to discover how addicted students were. They weren't just frustrated by being cut off from media, they reported they actually couldn't function and felt hopeless. Plenty of students admitted cheating, giving in to check their phone messages or to feed their "sports junkie" habit.
Others found that it wasn't the lost connections to friends they noticed most; it was the deafening silence of their world without TVs and music.
"It was really hard for me to go without listening to my iPod during the day because it's kind of my way to zone out of everything and everyone when I walk to class. It gets my mind right," one student wrote. "It sounds weird but music really helps to set my mood or fix my mood and without it I had to rely on other people to keep me in a good mood."
But the experiment did offer benefits for many students. Some reported they took better care of themselves during their media-free day, going to the gym, cooking full meals and enjoying more face-to-face interactions with friends.
Other students even buckled down and hit the books.
"Studying was a million times more productive without the media distracting me with texts, calls, Facebook, email, games and other random internet sites," one student wrote.
"Classes went better since I couldn't text or get on the Internet, I took better notes and was more focused," wrote another.
"I found a book I had lying around that I had not yet finished, and read for two solid hours. This turned out to be the most enjoyable part of my Sunday. I had completely forgotten how much I enjoyed reading a real book," wrote still another.
Still, while most of the students said they felt proud of themselves for making it through a whole day without using their cellphone or Internet, and some said they even learned a thing or two, most were relieved when the 24 hours were up.
According to one student: "Overall, it was a good experience to wait 24 hours to use technology, but it is something that I never want to do again!"