Is using technology addictive? One study, titled "The World Unplugged," asked 1,000 youngsters from ages 17 to 23 in 10 countries to give up the gadget and go a full day without one's phone, computer, TV, etc. Turned out it was "a horrible day," a Chilean said.
The responses of the participants paints a story that's as depressing as it is long — all in all, the 1,000 test subjects hammered out half a million words, which is in the same ballpark as Leo Tolstoy's War And Peace.
"Media is my drug; without it I was lost," wrote a contributor from the U.K. "I am an addict. How could I survive 24 hours without it?" That was echoed by an American, who added, "I was itching, like a crackhead, because I could not use my phone." A little less dramatic was someone from Slovakia, who simply said "I felt sad, lonely and depressed" when unplugged. All this after just one day.
It makes sense that without technology you'd be cut off from the news, your friends, your favorite tech blogs and so on — and that that could leave you feeling bummed — but the participants were surprised to realize how they typically absorb that information:
Because Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and their counterparts are increasingly the way students reported getting their news and information, students were cavalier about any need for traditional news outlets, and in fact very few students mentioned any legacy or online news organization by name.
The participants didn't really care whether the news source came from The New York Times or the BBC, the study showed. It was typically delivered to them through their social networks, and often reading the blurb a friend posts is as far as someone would get. The actual article would be left mostly unread.
If you're currently biting your fingers into stumps and wondering how you can keep yourself from ever feeling that gadgetless depression these brave students faced, the Unplugged researchers have drafted up a set of lessons for everyone, including the individual, universities and even journalists. Check it out here.