Young people around the world have a tough time letting go of their gadgets, a recent study found. For some, abstaining from texting and other tech activities for a even a short time lead to symptoms of withdrawal.
Conducted by the International Center for Media and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, the study asked 2,000 university students from the United States, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia to go without gadgets, social media and the Internet for 24 hours and record their experiences.
Despite the study participants' diverse backgrounds, researchers noticed one surprising similarity among most of the students examined.
"A clear majority in every country admitted outright failure of their efforts to go unplugged," researchers wrote.
“I didn’t use my cell phone all night. It was a difficult day… a horrible day,” a student from Chile admitted. “After this, I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT MEDIA! I need my social webs, my cell phone, my Mac, my mp3 always!”
The study said that in many cases, social media and tech had become essential to students' everyday life. School, work and social relationships have become increasingly tied to new media and the technology that provides access to it, researchers found.
During the "unplugged" experiment, some students experienced feelings of boredom, confusion, distress and isolation.
A great number of students also wrote about their "addiction" to tech.
From the study's findings:
Students from every country wrote about how going 24 hours without media affected their emotional well-being. Even some of those who found benefits in unplugging – fewer distractions, face-to-face connections with friends and family – likened their reactions to the media fast to feelings of a drug withdrawal. They became anxious, stressed, jealous, hostile.
Some shared details of their experiences. For example, a student from the U.K. wrote,
Media is my drug; without it I was lost…. I am an addict. I don’t need alcohol, cocaine or any other derailing form of social depravity; I just need my drug. I had this somewhat hideous realization at about 7pm on Sunday, 24th October. I paced, I pondered the meaning of life and then I panicked. How could I survive 24 hours without it? How could I go on?
A student from the U.S. explained, "I realized that I was having hostile thoughts towards those students who were walking around texting. I was jealous of them and it literally felt like some sort of withdrawal.”
Students in the United States and China were among those most tied to tech. Twenty-three percent of U.S. participants compared their cravings for technology to an addiction. In both mainland China and in Hong Kong, 22 percent of students expressed feelings of addiction.
To read see more results from this extensive study, visit TheWorldUnplugged.com and see the chart below.