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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Is the Internet (& Media) an Addiction?

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