Is technology a distracting addiction?

Is the need to feel connected a real addiction? According to a study conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Affairs at the University of Maryland (in partnership with the Salzberg Academy on Media and Global Change), college students across the globe can’t seem to do without their cell-phones and social media. Students in ten countries showed a marked increase in feelings of failure, boredom, confusion, distress, and isolation when asked to go 24 hours without media.

The study reveals that students have grown to rely on technology. A day without it proves to be a laborious experience and a terrifying concept. One student from the United Kingdom admitted, “Media is my drug; without it I was lost. I am an addict. How could I survive 24 hours without it?”

The study’s authors indicated that while a clinical diagnosis may not exist for this “addiction,” “the cravings sure seem real—as do the anxiety and the depression” (Choney).

Many students claimed that this 24-hour technology de-tox “ripped back the curtain on their hidden loneliness.” Without technology, would young adults know how to interact? Or does it support the fear that technology is becoming a crutch for social contact, possibly hindering our ability to communicate in person as effectively?

This dependency has been a major conflict in a majority of colleges throughout the world and perhaps, with just cause. Go into a college computer lab and it’s not uncommon for you to see students running multiple applications, one or more of them being social media. And it’s rare to find a college-age student bold enough not to have a smartphone or, at the very least, a Facebook account. The question that has yet to be answered is: are these distractions weighing kids down? Are they preventing them from performing at their highest possible level? Aren’t we better off if we just do away with them? But that’s about as easy as undoing years of technological advancement and saying, “Oops, we didn’t mean for things to go that far.” What’s more, trying to tear an iPhone from the hands of a college-age person—or anyone, for that matter—is a treacherous feat.

But this study and others like it confirm that it’s not merely adolescent rebelliousness that keeps kids hooked on their social media. One student at Chongqing University in China testified, “For people in the modern society, communication [media] is as important as breath.” So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many colleges’ attempts to “go unplugged” have failed because of the seemingly tight tethers that technology has on students.


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