Media is my drug; without it I was lost

Several articles came out this week providing evidence and commentary on the importance of unplugging:


You don’t need to click on all four links.  All of them are providing the same data.  Everything goes back to the same principle: we (society) should be taking a break from being online.

The study involving faculty from Chicago University, Florida State University, and Minnesota University, gave “BlackBerrys, to gauge the willpower of 205 people aged between 18 and 85.” (The Guardian)  Officials used the technology to have their participants log “whether they were experiencing a desire at that moment or had experienced one within the last 30 minutes, what type it was, the strength (up to irresistible), whether it conflicted with other desires and whether they resisted or went along with it.” (The Guardian)

Obviously from all of the headlines, social media came out on top.  To answer the obvious question: “we made clear to participants that answering the BlackBerrys did not count. Also people really did not feel a desire to use them – they only beeped once in a while and, if anything, that was more annoying than pleasing, I guess. And there was nothing else they could use the devices for.” (The Guardian)  The study will be officially published by the Journal of Psychology Science later this year.

Each articles speculated why social media beat out more popular addictions like cigarettes, sexual desires, and alcohol.  A few commented on how a social media addiction is costs very little to maintain compared to other addictions.

I think the most revealing segment came from one from the article in the Telegraph.  I’ve quoted the second half of the article because I feel it speaks louder than any commentary I can contribute:

Prof Susan Moeller, who led the research, said technology had changed the students’ relationships.

“Students talked about how scary it was, how addicted they were,” she said.

“They expected the frustration. But they didn’t expect to have the psychological effects, to be lonely, to be panicked, the anxiety, literally heart palpitations.

“Technology provides the social network for young people today and they have spent their entire lives being ‘plugged in’.”

The study interviewed young people, aged between 17 and 23, including about 150 students from Bournemouth University, who were asked to keep a diary of their thoughts.

They were told to give up their mobile phones, the internet, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and they were not allowed to watch television.

They were, however, permitted to use landline telephones and read books.

The study found that one in five reported feelings of withdrawal akin to addiction while more than one in 10 admitted being left confused and feeling like a failure.

Just 21 per cent said they could feel the benefits of being unplugged.

One British participant reported: “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.”

Another wrote: ‘I literally didn’t know what to do with myself. Going down to the kitchen to pointlessly look in the cupboards became regular routine, as did getting a drink.’

A third said: ‘I became bulimic with my media; I starved myself for a full 15 hours and then had a full-on binge.’

While a fourth student added: “I felt like a helpless man on a lonely deserted island in the big ocean”.

Prof Moeller added: “Some said they wanted to go without technology for a while but they could not as they could be ostracized by their friends.’

“When the students did not have their mobile phones and other gadgets, they did report that they did get into more in-depth conversations.

“Quite a number reported quite a difference in conversation in terms of quality and depth as a result.”

by Dan Weir: Feb 5, 2012

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce February 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Honestly I would rather have my kids addicted to Tech then to sex, cigs or drugs. With technology controls I can regulate how much they are exposed to online garbage. With sex, cigs and/or drugs I cannot.


Dan Weir February 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Bruce, while you bring up a good point I would like to point out that no addiction is healthy. I would hope we wouldn’t want kids to develop any addiction.


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