NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Young people experience the same kind of withdrawal pains when separated from technology as addicts do when separated from their drug of choice, one new study from the International Center for Media and Public Affairs found.
The survey of nearly 1,000 students under the age of 25 in the U.S. and nine other countries had participants go one full day without cellphones, laptops, televisions, portable music players or any other digital media, and then describe their experiences.
Students’ reactions ranged from severe boredom to outright anxiety, with some expressing desperation at the reality of being unplugged for a prolonged period of time and others feeling lost and paralyzed.
“Media is my drug; without it I was lost. I am an addict. How could I survive 24 hours without it?” one student from the U.K. said, according to the study. An Argentine student professed to feeling “sad, lonely and depressed” throughout the 24-hour period.
“Students’ addiction to media may not be clinically diagnosed, but the cravings sure seem real – as do the anxiety and depression,” the researchers concluded.
Young people from the U.S. were the most likely of any country to feel addicted to technology, with 23% of those surveyed saying they felt that way, but negative feelings in response to unplugging were overwhelmingly common for students from every country. Some 78% of those in the U.S. felt addicted, bored and confused, among other negative feelings, while 80% of those from Mexico and 84% of those in China felt badly as well. By contrast, a very slim minority claimed to feel the benefits of going a day without technology.
Ultimately though, the goal of the study was less to demonize technology than to make students aware of the significant role it plays in their lives. Students found themselves to be particularly dependent on their cell phones and were surprised by the realization that they were excessively bored without digital media, and indeed, how accustomed they’d become to the distractions it provided.