Could you go 24 hours without any access to media? That includes mobile phones, internet, television, and even your MP3 player. For college students in the US the concept is unthinkable, uncomfortable, and maybe impossible. Now a major study is aiming to determine if the same is true worldwide.
Ten universities around the world are conducting follow-up to research done at the University of Maryland that involved having groups of students go a full 24 hours with no access to media. The original study found that the subjects of the study suffered symptoms very similar to people undergoing drug withdrawals. The research team in College Park summarized the situation well:
Most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their media links to the world.
The most obvious issue was the challenge students faced in organizing their day without a mobile phone. But students who are used to being constantly connected to friends, family and the world via Facebook found the lack of access to the social networking site jarring. Interestingly, among college students, the most profound challenge was going iPod free. As one student explained:
It was really hard for me to go without listening to my iPod during the day because it’s kind of my way to zone out of everything and everyone when I walk to class. It gets my mind right. Listening to music before I go to class or take an exam is my way of getting amped up like a football player before a game. It sounds weird but music really helps to set my mood or fix my mood and without it I had to rely on other people to keep me in a good mood.
It does make sense. Other people really are so much less reliable than an iPod. Perhaps Apple will start making iPeople soon so we don’t have to rely on the standard version.
For now we’ll just have to wait and see if the kind of mental, and even physical, discomfort being subjected to media free time caused for American students is replicated globally. Results from the new round of research are expected in 2011.