How many times a day do you check your Facebook page? Or pop on Twitter to find out about what’s going on in the world? Do you ever go a day without social media – and do you get withdrawals? A study, entitled The World Unplugged, has found that students ages 17-23 experiences symptoms similar to those of drug withdrawal when they are kept off the internet for a day. 24 hours. Can you kick the social media habit?
Not according to the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland. Students from ten countries participated in the study and were asked to abstain from using the internet for 24 hours. A majority was unable to do so, and those that did reported feeling anxious, stressed, and depressed. They felt a big disconnect from the outside world, with one Slovakian student saying he “sometimes felt dead.”
Sometimes you cannot completely abstain from the internet or social media because of work or school obligations. But the study found that for many, not being able to connect, was a cause of incredible concern. They needed their next fix. Some other findings:
• Students had a hard time distinguishing between their virtual selves and their real selves. One student from Mexico said it perfectly: “It was an unpleasant surprise to realize that I am in a state of constant distraction, as if my real life and my virtual life were coexisting in different planes, but in equal time.” This echoes what the other student said about feeling dead – his virtual self was dead, or at least dormant.
• Students needed social media to connect with friends or formulate a social life. They substituted virtual relationships for real ones.
• Students felt disconnected because they couldn’t see the latest news. No, not the news from sites like CNN, but the news that friends posted on Facebook or Twitter, which was their primary source for “news”.
Do you find yourself craving your next social media fix or depending on it for human contact, such as it is?