Are We Becoming Disconnected by Our Love of Devices?

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Are We Becoming Disconnected by Our Love of Devices?

Media Academy students’ ‘Unplugged’ research featured on CBS

Has our need to be constantly connected to the World Wide Web actually left us disconnected from our own immediate reality? Can we overcome this apparent obsession with texting and get back to talking? 

The USA’s CBS News asked these questions in a report on Sunday, September 30, and gained help in its answers from research carried out by partners of the Salzburg Academy for Media and Global Change

The Media Academy’s ‘Unplugged’ project, conducted in conjunction with Academy partner International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, University of Maryland, part of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, found that many young people are worryingly addicted to their telecommunications devices. 

Conducted with the assistance of a dozen university partners of the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change, the study asked 1000 students in 10 developed and developing countries on five continents to give up all media for 24 hours.  After their daylong abstinence, the students recorded their experiences. The results surprised 

“It ended up being the most horrible experience many of them had ever in their life, according to what they self-reported to us. The psychological impact was significant,” lead researcher, Sergey Golitsynskiy told CBS reporter Susan Spencer. 

Of the 1000 students who responded, 70 percent of them quit the experiment, saying they simply couldn't do give up their phones, laptops and TVs for the full day. 

“They felt a tremendous amount of boredom. They were bored without it,” said Golitsynskly.

“They felt emotionally detached from the rest of the world.” 

The World Unplugged study concluded that most college students, whether in developed or developing countries, are strikingly similar in how they use media.  Student after student spoke about their generation's utter dependency on media - especially the mobile phone. And they also explained how they think about news. 

“We are used to having information about everything on the planet and this information we have to have in an unbelievable time.  Our generation doesn’t need certified and acknowledged information. More important is quantity, not quality of news,” said on Slovakian student study participant. 

As Spencer explains in her report, “One American student reported: ‘I was itching, like a crackhead...’ Someone in the UK said: ‘Media is my drug ... I am an addict.’ A student from China wrote: ‘I was almost freaking out.’ And a person from Argentina reported: ‘Sometimes I felt dead.’”

Spencer also interviewed MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, author of the book ‘Alone Together’, looking at society’s excessive use of mobile phones and the loss of the art of conversation. 

Her antidote to this apparent media ‘addiction’? 

“Talk to your child. Talk to your partner. Talk to yourself!”

Turkle told Spencer.  “…It’s not about saying, ‘Don't use your phone.’ It’s not about throwing away your phone. It’s about, ‘How do we reclaim conversation?’”