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Addicted to Social Media?

New study reveals high level of dependency among young people

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I can’t remember the last time I went without my smartphone. Camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, miles away from civilization, I still walked far enough out to get a signal and some edge service. Don’t judge, I really wanted to check Facebook it was the NCAA tournament and my Cats were playing. Apparently, I’m not alone in my inability to disconnect. A new study shows that students experience withdrawal similar to drug addiction when separated from the internet – for just one day.

A global media study called “The World Unplugged” asked 1,000 students aged 17-23 to abstain from any form of media for a whole 24 hours. The study, run by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (University of Maryland), compiled surveys from young adults in ten countries around the world, including Lebanon, China, Uganda, Argentina and the U.S.

The researchers found that if the students were able to completely abstain (a big if), then they reported anxiety, cravings and depression. They felt disconnected from the outside world, and felt as though they had lost a part of themselves by extension. A student from the United Kingdom said that he “was an addict.” An American student said that he “was itching, like a crackhead because [he] couldn’t use his phone.” A student from Slovakia said they “sometimes felt dead.”

How addicted are you to social media? Tell us what you think

Whoa. Weighty stuff. I wouldn’t be too quick to toss this up to juvenile dramatics, however. I’m not sure that many of the reactions to a no-media day would be any different coming from 40-something business professionals. The researchers documented the responses in what they call the “addiction grid.”

Some major observations made by the study:

  • A clear majority were unable to fully complete the 24 hour ban. Whether this was due to a lack of fortitude, or the students “had” to use media for work, most countries in the study failed to abstain completely.
  • The study found that the students described their digital selves and extensions of their real selves, but were unable to differentiate one from the other. A Mexican student said, “it was an unpleasant surprise to realize that I am in a state of constant distraction, as if my real life and my virtual life were coexisting in different planes, but in equal time.”
  • The students reported that Facebook is essential to maintaining any sort of social life. Without it, you have no chance to tether yourself to a group of friends.
  • The study found that the term “news” has been completely skewed by the reliance on social media. Students reported that they had no idea what was going on in the world, but not because they couldn’t check CNN or BBC, but because they couldn’t see what their friends were saying on Facebook and Twitter. “News” to them is anything that happens, globally of locally. They also rely more on social media sites to provide their news as opposed to going out and finding it themselves.
  • 140 characters is enough. The students were happy to give and receive information in the quick hit format.
  • They didn’t miss email as much as social networking sites, but they don’t think email is dead.  It is just for “older” demographics and for work.

The study apparently caused some students to lament their addictions to media, and espouse the benefits of “unplugging.” Directly from the study;

“We live too quickly,” said a student in Slovakia. “We call our friends or chat with them when we need them – that is the way we have gotten used to relationships.” And the problems for some students went beyond loneliness. Some came to recognize that ‘virtual’ connections had been substituting for real ones – their relationship to media was one of the closest “friendships” they had.

Although some students felt the benefits of unplugging, most felt anxiety, boredom, isolation and distress.

Whats does the study teach, according to the researchers? That young people are pretty much unable to control their everyday lives without social media. The study also has some unintended benefits for developers of media technology and advertisers. According to the researchers, the kids were “media agnostic” for the most part.

Young people around the world care most about whatever latest hardware or app can connect them most quickly to the people they most value. The students may have settled in for the foreseeable future with familiar social networks (Facebook, Twitter), they may have definite preferences about their favorite brands of phones (Blackberry v. iPhone), but the next “better” thing will get quickly picked up by the early adopters, and either steal market share or entirely displace older tools and technologies.

Whether addiction to technology is a real condition or not, people seem to feel addicted. And really, that’s all that matters.

Have you ever tried to sustain long periods of time without the internet? Let us know.

Addicted to Social Media?
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  • http://twitter.com/facebookdisease Aaron

    I consider social media just like a disease. It is cancerous disease. The early you get rid of it, the happier will be your life.

    • Ryan Kempf

      you know if you don’t like Social Media thats fine but don’t call it disease plus the fact with the job market the way that it is I wouldn’t say that Social Media is a disease too loud it may cost your job people are unadaptable to change will have a difficult time finding and maintaining a job in my opinion due to the change in the job market

  • Frederick

    The same thing that happened to the CB radio will be the end of the social media. Once you have found your friends and have their email addresses what more is there to do on the social media site – do you want everyone on the social media site to read your posts?

  • Ryan Kempf

    you know if you don’t like Social Media thats fine but don’t call it disease plus the fact with the job market the way that it is I wouldn’t say that Social Media is a disease too loud it may cost your job. People that are unadaptable to change will have a difficult time finding and maintaining a job in my opinion due to the change in the job market.

  • http://www.youtube.com.br jorge

    you tube o melhor canal de vdeo

  • http://www.shapirit.biz טכנאי מחשבים, תחזוקת מחשבים שוטפת ותחזוקה מונעת

    -”Whether addiction to technology is a real condition or not”-
    This is a REAL addiction induced by companies with government backup, the same as using credit cards, driving your own 4×4 car (instead of public transportation) and beverages (instead of plain water) they use the same strategy as in tobacco consumption to keep your mind occupied with banal things.

    Not only I agree with Aaron that social media are a disease I would add that a lot of phone gadgets also blur your mind, the big problem is that there is a whole generation that was rised to it from kindergarden to adulthood and they induce their children to use it.

  • http://www.fbtrafficsecret.com Facebook Marketing Strategies

    I am not addicted to Social Media but I’ll have to admit that I am addicted to technology in general.

  • http://shop.guiltfreesmokingsd.com Sandiegoecigman

    Respectfully I have to disagree here, speaking for myself. Life is full of challenges, work, play, setbacks, and victories. To be successfully engaged in business social media at least for now is the buzz. It comes along with the territory. Business people do not have time to be excessively involved in social media. And, I do feel that it connects the world. As for teenagers it can have pro’s and con’s. Pro is that teenagers can connect with friends from home instead of hanging out in unhealthy situations. Con would obviously be the over use of social media causing grades to fall, lack of sleep, and missing some of that old fashion, ” say it to my face stuff.” Great topic! Keeps us aware of the situation.

  • mark_lester

    I can totally relate with the article. Indeed social media has played a big part in my life. Networking sites such as Mysocialworld which is an add on toolbar enables me to communicate with my love ones thus strengthening our relationship. I believe it is a case to case basis.

  • http://www.playingcardsandmore.com Tommy

    Not even a little bit, with so many other things to do, who has time?

  • Dominica

    Lots of valid points in this article. I do believe that many of the younger generations are “addicted” to social media. It is distressing to see that many people are unable to focus on the person they are with (friend or date) and enjoy that one person’s company without continually checking to see what other friends are doing/tweeting/posting. It is quite a rude practice and implies that you are looking for someone more interesting to hang out with.

    Technology has developed some great tools. We just need to remember that they are tools and should be under our control, not vice versa. I hope that society’s love affair with gadgets will fade and we will go back more enriching experiences. Such as using voice mail (a great invention that takes messages so you can enjoy your companion AND find out who called – later).

    • http://www.ientry.com/ Josh Wolford

      Yeah, I am pretty attached, but I get pretty angry when one of my friends is texting when I’m trying to talk to them. Whole new level of rude.

  • http://cbrownphoto.com Cindy Brown

    I’m pretty attached, but not addicted. I just spend a weekend at a silent retreat with no internet and it was great.

  • http://hoshilandia.com hitokirihoshi Jr.

    Once in a while i want to detach my self from any activity using computer or Internet, especially in social media. so far i’m successful in just checking my FB account every weekend for status messages and playing restaurant city.

    sometimes i feel guilty that i don’t do the basic and essential things when i go online. i neglect reading my books and magazines, doing my scrapbooks, cleaning my room, and chatting with my family & friends.

  • Ajay Goel

    Because I recently realized that I am addicted to FB and Twitter, I decided to quit checking FB for a month. I deleted my FB iphone app, logged myself out from browser, removed column from Tweetdeck and haven’t logged in to my account in the past 2 weeks. 2 more weeks to go :) But oh boy, this is tough!

  • http://theblogginguniverse.com/blog Venkatesh Iyer

    I am not a youngster: I am 53 years old. I am not aware of what drug withdrawal would feel like, because I have never been addicted. I am not hooked to Facebook or Twitter, though I have accounts on both, as well as a few other social networks. If there is anything I am addicted to it is probably email. But I can say this: the thought of being away from my computer and the internet for an “extended” period of time (that means even a couple of days) is scary.

  • http://www.scasha.com Stephanie

    Social media broke up the wall for everyone. It had revolutionized the process of Internet and how people interact with each other. I think that in the comping years it will also help many people to get things done like Libyans are doing.

  • http://www.exciting-peru.com/ Amariliz Santander

    The study apparently caused some students to lament their addictions to media, and espouse the benefits of “unplugging.” Directly from the study;

  • http://verneeh.wordpress.com Verne

    It’s here to stay. Just show some self-restraint.