Young are addicted to Internet like fish are addicted to water

Studies of media withdrawal miss the point; the medium is the connection

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People (and geeks) have joked for a long time about being addicted to the Internet, or their gadgets or their CrackBerries. A study of 1,000 students in ten countries found there may really be more truth in humor than the other way around.

For the study, researchers at the University of Maryland's International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) asked students 25 years old or younger to give up all electronic media for 24 hours, then answer a series of questions about their experience.

"I was itching, like a crackhead, because I could not use my phone," one American student responded.

"I am an addict. I don't need alcohol, cocaine or any other derailing form of social depravity. Media is my drug; without it I was lost," said one from the UK.

Most media have picked up on the addiction theme and the first-cut, relatively shallow observation that, deprived of all forms of digital media, the physical reaction of students mirrored that of those going through withdrawal from chemical addictions.

Far more important than physical symptoms were the feelings of social isolation, loneliness and depression that followed a return for even 24 hours to a totally analog lifestyle.

One reason was boredom, which will drive a lot of knee-jerk those-rotten-kids kind of reaction to the study. Without electronic media, the students didn't know what to do with themselves.

Chores became difficult without MP3s or other media to distract and classes seemed impossibly long; few seemed to come up with creative ways to keep themselves entertained.

The knee-jerk reaction is to blame those darn kids who can't appreciate all the technological miracles they have or enough gumption to actually pay attention to the world around them the way we had to when we were kids and had to carve our high-definition game graphics in rock before we could pretend to play with them.

That's a mistake.

Photo Credit: 

Source: Columbia Pictures

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