If the study of 200 students at the University of Maryland is representative of student behavior nationwide, college students are seriously addicted to their media -- their cell phones, iPods, computers, and other means of communication with the world.
The students blogged about their experiences after a 24-hour media abstinence period, writing a total of 110,000 words, or the equivalent a full 400-page book about their experiences. The "Wordle" below is a data visualization of the words used in the entire body of student work; the larger the word appears, the more frequently it was used.
"Wordle" on 110,000 words students wrote about their experience: Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland
The Wordle below represents the words used to describe the students' feelings during the 24-hour restriction from all media, the same terms associated
with drug and alcohol addition - withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, antsy, miserable, jittery, crazy... Others said they were lonely, sad, alone, secluded, isolated...
"Wordle": Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland
The conclusions of this study are not only relevant to the mental health of young persons addicted to their portable media, but for the news media and the educational and social implications of this dependence on the future.
The top 5 highlights of the investigation, according to the study conclusions were:
1. Students use literal terms of addition to characterize their dependence on media.
2. Students hate going without media. In their world, going without media, means going without their friends and family.
3. Students show no significant loyalty to a news program, news
personality or even news platform. Students have only a casual
relationship to the originators of news, and in fact don’t make fine
distinctions between news and more personal information. They get news
in a disaggregated way, often via friends.
4. 18-21 year old college students are constantly texting and on
Facebook—with calling and email distant seconds as ways of staying in
touch, especially with friends.
5. Students could live without their TVs and the newspaper, but they can’t survive without their iPods.
The 200 students were in one class, Media Literacy, a required course for all university students. It was a relatively small population of students - 200 - but it was
representative of the University of Maryland's College Park campus,
located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C, with a demographically
diverse population, similar to those in or near other large U.S. cities.
The study methodology and conclusions are described in full at A Day Without Media. It is a highly relevant document for parents, students, educators, social scientists, and the news media.