A new study from the University of Maryland finds that students are hooked on social media and cellphones, describing withdrawals in terms similar to those used by drug and alcohol addicts.
The study from the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, “24 Hours: Unplugged,” asked 200 students on the campus to give up all media for a full day and blog on private Web sites about their experience. Student reaction showed addictionlike withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, misery, and being jittery, the authors wrote.
One student wrote that texting and sending instant messages gives him or her “a constant feeling of comfort,” without which he or she felt “quite alone and secluded from my life.” Another said that he or she feels “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.”
Researchers were surprised by the number of students who said they were incredibly addicted to media, Susan D. Moeller, the project director, said in a news release. She is also the center’s director and a journalism professor.
“But we noticed that what they wrote at length about was how they hated losing their personal connections,” she said. “Going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family.”
Some psychologists have warned that addiction is a serious issue and that comparisons with addiction should be handled with care. The American Psychiatric Association does not formally recognize “Internet addiction” as a disorder.
Zack Whittaker, a blogger for ZDNet, called the research methodology “pretty rock solid” but takes issue with the way the results have been interpreted by the researchers. Mr. Whittaker said in a blog post that he felt that today “the term ‘addiction’ is bandied around without thought or conviction.”
“I defend to the highest possible level that today’s youth are not addicted to social media and networking, the Web, and online media,” Mr. Whittaker wrote. “We do spend far more time on Facebook and accessing the Web for leisure use and socializing, but that is part of the natural progression of tertiary, noncompulsory education socialization.”