Researchers at the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) at the University of Maryland in the US asked 200 students aged to 18-21 to give up all forms of media for 24 hours and on April 21 published their findings on their blog Withoutmedia.
The media starvation included "cell phone, iPod, television, car radio, magazines, newspapers and computer (i.e. no texting, no Facebook or IM-ing)." The fast was broken 24 hours later with students privately blogging their feelings about the experience.
The results of the study "24 Hours - Unplugged" showed "most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their media links to the world."
"I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening," said one student in the study. "I feel like most people these days are in a similar situation, for between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin."
The private blogs were used to build a "wordle cloud" of over 100,000 words and those most frequently used included 'media,' 'phone,' 'day,' 'time,' 'people,' 'without' and 'hours.'
Susan D. Moeller, a journalism professor and the director of the ICMPA, said, "we noticed that what they wrote at length about was how they hated losing their personal connections. Going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family." Here is a list of the study's the top five findings provided by Moeller:
1. use literal terms of addiction to characterize their dependence on media.
2. hate going without media. In their world, going without media means going without their friends and family.
3. show no significant loyalty to a news program, news personality or even news platform. Students have only a casual relationship to the originators of news, and in fact don't make fine distinctions between news and more personal information. They get news in a disaggregated way, often via friends.
4. are constantly texting and on Facebook - with calling and email distant seconds as ways of staying in touch, especially with friends.
5. could live without their TVs and the newspaper, but they can't survive without their iPods.
Here are some experiences in the words of the students:
"Email is the only kind of mail I've ever sent."
"I only use newspapers to clean my windows."
"I received 40 texts since we started doing this - in the last 15 minutes."
"Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort."
"By 2:00 pm. I began to feel the urgent need to check my email, and even thought of a million ideas of why I had to. I felt like a person on a deserted island.... I noticed physically, that I began to fidget, as if I was addicted to my iPod and other media devices, and maybe I am."
To see more of what the students wrote, go to: http://withoutmedia.wordpress.com/soundbites/
To try your own experiment, give up media for the day and then answer these questions: How do you use media? Have you ever gone unplugged? What was it like? at http://withoutmedia.wordpress.com/comments/
Watch Moeller and others in the Addicted to Media panel discussion: http://www.justin.tv/merrillumd/b/262602102