Can you live a single day “unplugged”? College students recently tried turning off all their technological devices for a short 24 hours, and most of them failed. Cell phones, computers, and TV are such a part of young people’s lives today that many cannot go any amount of time without these things. Some people are actually psychologically addicted to their devices, and these addictions can be as powerful as dependence on drugs or alcohol.
The Unplugged Challenge
A study done by the International Center for Media & the Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, in partnership with the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change, challenged 1,000 college students from around the world to unplug from cell phones, TVs, and computers for 24 hours. Less than 50% were able to complete the challenge. Young adults today have grown up among media and devices and are too often unable to live without them. They are used to a world of constant information, they communicate through social media sites and instant communication, and some of them can’t face the thought of being without their phones or computers.
Not only were the students in the study not able to avoid using cell phones and computers, but the test actually showed that their mood was affected because going unplugged caused withdrawal-like symptoms. Some students said they felt lonely and depressed, while others said they experienced physical cravings for the devices.
Addiction to the Internet and even cell phones is a very real condition, and the number of people unable to unplug keeps growing every year. Many of us might feel lost without our phones or when we can’t check our messages, but someone with a real media addiction will experience withdrawal symptoms if they are unplugged.
While many of us do feel a strong need to have our phones or the Internet handy at all times during the day, we need to be careful that our media usage doesn’t become an addiction. The students in the study realized how much they rely on their devices when they had to go without them. It is good to challenge ourselves to leave behind the cell phone every once in a while and to make ourselves unplug so that we do not develop a real dependence on media.