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Is the Internet (& Media) an Addiction?




The University of Maryland’s International Center for Media and the Public Agenda conducted a study of college students, depriving them of the Internet, cell phones, and even TV, newspapers and radio for twenty-four hours. Based on the students’ own comments about how much they missed it and were addicted to the Internet, the researchers concluded that the results of one single day were college students are Internetaholics.

Oh, I’m so addicted to hyperbole.

Feeling dependent on something doesn’t make you actually dependent on it. The students were unwilling to go without media, disliked the experience and claimed to be dependent on and addicted to the Internet and other media—but we’re still a bit short of calling this game.

Now, let me say this: the Internet/media may be an addiction. (And I hereby volunteer myself as a prime candidate for a study on that!) However, this study doesn’t do anything to convince me of that. My cell phone has been in the shop for three hours as I write this, and I feel physically disconnected—like I’ve had my antennae clipped. If I had antennae, you know. But that statement does not a scientific or even significant breakthrough make. There are specific chemical centers and reactions and behaviors in the brain that constitute an actual addiction. Until we’re ready to look at something a bit more scientifically, using the term “addiction”—an actual, scientific term—is premature.

For the real meat: “students felt most bereft without their cell phones,” says the study’s website. Obviously, these were the devices they used the most to contact their friends and family.

Hm… so was it the cell phones, or the friends and family members they couldn’t contact quickly that they missed the most? The quotes they used from the students indicated that the utility of cell phones and social networks were what the students missed most—everything from calling their mom, to planning to meet friends, to taking notes in class, to checking the time. So yes, mobile devices and social networks have become pervasive and well-used—but we’re still using them to do the same things and connect with individuals more efficiently.

Bottom line: college students use media a lot. It’s faster and easier—and yes, very deeply ingrained into the way they do things. But nobody actually broke out in a cold sweat over losing their Samsung. Mercifully, the study was short enough that the participants probably suffered few long-term effects, if any ;) .

What do you think? Is this a case of exaggeration of the findings?

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  • http://www.searchengineoptimization.co.uk Mike

    Internet surfing, blogging and social media is addiction for me and i spend maximum 5 to 6 hours on internet doing these things…..seems to be addictions or hobby for me…no idea but it has become routine for most of us to live with internet…………..we have our own excuses for these habits, i will say that i need to remain in touch with clients, while bloggers will say that they need to be in communication with their readers…….and some will say they need to be in touch with friends through social networks…so everyone have own reasons and excuses to use media and internet……
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Breadcrumbs Within Search Results =-.

  • Dean

    @Jordan

    Re: “My cell phone has been in the shop for three hours as I write this, and I feel physically disconnected”

    Did you feel disconnected because you weren’t able to tweet “My cell phone has been in the shop for three hours as I write this, and I feel physically disconnected” ;)

    • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

      LOL. Actually, I wanted to text my husband about it, and keep in touch with my parents as they were traveling. My Twitter account is sadly neglected.

  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk Luci

    I think it’s an exaggeration – the study wasn’t long enough and to be addicted there needs to have been some sign of physical withdrawal (other than just ‘ feelings’ from the students!) to have been actually addicted. Interesting study though!
    .-= Luci´s last blog ..Internet Marketing Service Problems – How traditional marketing methods can help. =-.

  • http://www.zadling.com/blog/ Zadling

    Yes, this study is a bit absurd. No matter what you take away from somebody, they’re going to miss it. It’s the fact that something was taken away from you no matter what it is. These studies are becoming so silly.
    .-= Zadling´s last blog ..Google Earth Comes To Google Maps =-.

  • http://www.bontemedical.com Tony Zelinko

    In my opinion it is an addiction, but it also depends on what you define as an addiction. Do you have to experience withdrawal symptoms to be classified as an addiction? Or is it the fact of lack of awareness around you, constant involvement, total imursement a definition of addiction? I feel it’s the latter because in those cases the brain is in a state of constant neural firing, kinda of on edge, hyped up. Just waiting to see whats around the corner or who just retweeted me.

    I’m not sure how this is going to be viewed but constant use of the internet to socialize and use as a primary form of communication is detrimental to your psychological health. I’m basing this on observations and how neaural transmitters release chemicals in the brain.

    Ok to prove my point, if your on twitter, can you just stop with reading one tweet, No you have to read dozens and then find who retweeted you etc. Then you have to check Facebook and see if you have more friends etc. It’s a never ending involvement to seek immediate feedback.

    “Yes Jordan it is an addiction”

    Tony Zelinko
    http://www.Bontemedical.com/blog