This illustration uses 100,000 words students in the study used to write about their experience of going 24 hours without media. The words that are larger were used most frequently in the students comments.
You’ve got it. That little device that lets you access everything you need: texts, e-mails, even Facebook. You feel naked if you forget it. Your cell phone is something you cannot go without.
The average college student uses technology for everything. You use it to talk to friends and family or to complete assignments. Professors frequently assign discussion board topics as a source of homework.
Earlier this year, the University of Maryland conducted a study of students addicted to social media. The study concluded that most college students are unwilling and unable to be without media links to the world.
Two hundred students participated in the study, “24 Hours: Unplugged.” Students were asked to give up all media sources for 24 hours. After the 24 hours were over, they were asked to blog about their experiences, to report successes and admit failures.
Students noticed going without media meant going without friends and family. They wrote about losing their personal connections without Internet and cell phones. Without access to text messaging, phone calls, instant messages, e-mail and Facebook, students felt they couldn’t connect with friends.
“Texting and IMing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort,” wrote one student. “When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.”
The study showed that 18 to 21-year-old college students are not only constantly texting and on Facebook, but that students’ lives are wired together in such a way, that removing a normal communication pattern means renouncing a social life.
“I knew that the hardest aspect of ridding myself of media would be not checking Facebook or my e-mails, so I went ahead and deactivated my Facebook account in advance. It’s pathetic to think that I knew I had to delete my Facebook in order to prevent myself from checking it for one day,” one participant said.
Many students said they felt disconnected, anxious or worried that they were missing out on something. Taking away technology meant being out of touch.
“I noticed physically that I began to fidget, as if I was addicted to my iPod and other media devices, maybe I am,” a student wrote.
Another student said that they finished a knitting project they had started a few months prior. “I’m glad I am able to knit, or else I would have had literally nothing to do. By the time the clock read 11:55 p.m., I was getting so antsy; all I could do was stare at it until it hit 12. You better believe that once it hit 12, I was in my office reconnecting myself to the Internet. After that I flung my desk drawer open and grabbed my beloved phone. I missed 20 e-mails and three text messages before I finally fell asleep around 1 a.m., I felt a sense of relief that I was finally back in the loop.”
Students found they were more productive with schoolwork without cell phones. Many students complained about being bored without being able to listen to music. They also found it easier to go without TV and newspaper rather than cell phones, iPods and the Internet. Without a cell phone, students were left without an alarm clock or a cell phone to arrive to class on time.
Students had to go media-free for a full day, or try to. Students were allowed to pick which 24 hours in a nine-day period. The study also reported that of the students that participated, 43.3 percent owned a “smart phone” and 56.7 percent said they did not.
Our generation is reliant upon technology to accomplish everyday tasks. Going without these devices disconnects us from the world. Technology is not just something we use, it’s a way of life.
Reporter Clayton Kush