200 students from the University of Maryland have kicked off a global study looking at young adult’s use of media, finding that the students actually experience symptoms akin to drug withdrawal.
The study, called Unplugged, which has also taken place at Bournemouth University, asked its students to go 24 hours without using any form of media: newspapers, televisions, iPods, phones, laptops, Facebook, Twitter or radio, and then blog about it afterwards.
As reported on the Unplugged website, many students reported feelings of loneliness, isolation and even physical symptoms like feeling fidgety.
“I noticed physically, that I began to fidget”, said one student, another reporting that instant messaging and texting their friends was comforting.
Students in the British contingent noted that making any plans was almost impossible without phones and Facebook, as things change within minutes, so making plans the day before was pointless.
The conclusion of the American study states that today’s youths’ use of media has not just changed the way they find and use information, but has also, “…caused them to make different and distinctive social, and arguably moral, decisions”. The study’s conclusions also draw light to the fact that the youth of today are “fickle” and do not care where their information comes from, rather it is the information itself that is coveted the most.
Although only a small and qualitative study that maybe cannot be considered to be truly representative of the teenage and young adult population of the US or the UK, it may well be seen as a worrying sign that our youth are just too dependent on media, and the potential harm this may be having.
The study did however find that the young were capable of developing coping skills during their media abstinence. So maybe it’s not all bad news.