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When Deprived Of Online Media, Teens Suffer Withdrawal

April 8, 2011

A new study confirms that many young people, when deprived of their gadgets show withdrawal symptoms comparable to those of drug addicts going cold turkey.

Researchers at the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland found 79 percent of students relieved of their smartphones, computers and any online access for one day reported adverse reactions ranging from distress to confusion and isolation.

One in five reported feelings of withdrawal like an addiction while 11 percent said they were confused or felt like a failure. Some students even reported stress from simply not being able to touch their phone.

Nearly one in five (19 percent) reported feelings of distress and 11 percent felt isolated. Only 21 percent said they appreciated the benefits of being unplugged from the online network.

“I am an addict. I don’t need alcohol, cocaine or any other derailing form of social depravity. Media is my drug; without it I was lost,” One participant reported.

Another wrote: “I literally didn’t know what to do with myself. Going down to the kitchen to pointlessly look in the cupboards became regular routine, as did getting a drink.”

Susan Moeller, lead researcher of the study, explains, “Technology provides the social network for young people today and they have spent their entire lives being plugged in. When the students did not have their mobile phones and other gadgets they reported they did get into more in-depth conversations.”

“Some said they wanted to go without technology for a while but they could not as they could be ostracized by their friends,’ claiming that technology ‘absolutely’ changed relationships.”

The ICMPA study asked around 1,000 students to give up all media for 24 hours and record their experiences. If you are under 25 and living in almost any country, you not only can’t imagine life without your cell phone, laptop and mp3 player, you can’t function without them.

‘The World Unplugged’ study, concluded that most college students, in any country, are strikingly similar in how they use media, and how often they use it also. Story after story highlighted their generation’s complete consumption of their time and focus to online media.

“My dependence on media is absolutely sickening,” said a student from Lebanon. “I felt like there was a problem with me,” wrote a student from Uganda.

One student from Hong Kong shared, “Because I became so addicted. I have less time for my studies and face-to-face meetings with my friends.”

Students were shocked by how much media dominates their lives. What was once thought of as a convenience, a way to communicate with friends and get news. After the study they came to recognize that they literally construct their identities through media. Going unplugged, therefore, was like losing part of themselves.

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