The International Center For Media and Public Agenda, at the University of Maryland College Park released a revealing study on the effects of social media and gadgets in students both high school and college aged. The study, a follow up to a similar experiment last year, had some dangerous revelations.
Researchers at the center found that if students were to abstain from electronic gadgets and social media they reported anxiety, cravings and depression. One of the American students, in the international set of 1000, reported “itching like a crackhead” when he couldn’t use his smartphone.
A UK Student said
‘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.’
The study revealed that students across the globe have similar habits and spend similar amounts of hours doing the same “connected” things. Internet ranked first, followed by social networks, email and games. Not surprising, many students across all continents didn’t know how they could possibly fill up their time without media and being connected. One of the UK students said:
“Going down to the kitchen to pointlessly look in the cupboards became a regular routine, as did getting a drink.”
Susan Moeller, the lead researcher in the study, said ‘Technology provides the social network for young people today and they have spent their entire lives being “plugged in”.
Inevitably when those lists come out at the end of this school year that highlight things that high school graduates didn’t know (designed to make us feel old) this will be the first class that may have never known life without the internet. America Online launched it’s first commercial version in February of 1991, while Prodigy launched it’s nationwide service in September of the previous year. BBS’s of course were available about a decade earlier.
In this study 1000 students from across the world were banned from using technology and social media for a 24 hour period. Cell phones, tablets, computers and other “connected” devices were banned during this period. Students were encouraged to read books, interact personally with each other and keep a handwritten journal.
Moeller reported that during the technology and social media black out students did have more meaningful face to face conversations with each other.
In 2010 Moeller did a smaller study with 200 students on the campus of the University of Maryland. During that blackout students realized they could live without their mp3 players, ipods and video games but missed the social connection they got from social networking sites like facebook. Students would say things to Moeller like “how can I talk to my friends”. The obvious answer was to actually talk to them.
The study revealed that for students smartphones were as much their swiss army knife as their security blanket. The ICMPS said that if Charles Schultz were to write Peanuts in 2011 Linus would be carrying a smartphone rather than a blanket.
Although it hasn’t been tabulated yet, after the 2010 study the 200 students produced enough content on their own personal facebook pages, e-journals and blogs to produce 110,000 words and over 400 pages, in their first day back online.