Addicted to Media

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There’s one sure way to get an addict to meet their addiction face-to-face. Ask them to stop. All the denials disappear when someone experiences abstinence for awhile. There’s no dodging the reality of the cravings or how powerfully important something has become. A diagnostic criteria is how someone reacts when they are forced to stop.

Recently, researchers at the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, did an experiment where they asked college students to abstain from media. That means no cell phones, newspapers or Internet. No television, radio or iPod. Nada.

Depending on your age, this might sound like a nice quiet day, one full of contemplation and peaceful silence. Not so for the students. They reacted in ways that mimicked addiction, using the same terms and expressing the same type of cravings. Mental symptoms of withdrawal emerged as soon as six hours after the “day without media” started.

The comments from the study are notable:

” It was really hard for me to go without listening to my iPod during the day because it’s kind of my way to zone out of everything and everyone when I walk to class. It gets my mind right.”

” I noticed physically, that I began to fidget, as if I was addicted to my iPod and other media devices, and maybe I am.”

Students complained of feeling disconnected from the world without being able to answer a phone call or text their friends. The authors don’t claim that immersion in electronic media actually is an addiction on par with substance abuse, but the study brings up an interesting question: How much do we choose the communication tools we use and how much are they unconsciously weaseling their way into our lives?

The experiment is one suitable for home use. Agree to no media whatsoever for 24 hours. Try it with a teenager and compare results. After all, it’s a simple test, and certainly you can abstain… right?

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