I’m fascinated by the number of people who are experimenting with different forms of unplugging: journalists, bloggers and tweeters who take some kind of solo holiday from connectivity. But a recent study at the University of Maryland took a larger-scale approach, asking 200 students to go offline for 24 hours. The top 5 findings of their experiment:
- Students use literal terms of addiction to characterize their dependence on media.
- Students hate going without media. In their world, going without media, means going without their friends and family.
- Students show no significant loyalty to a news program, news personality or even news platform. Students have only a casual relationship to the originators of news, and in fact don’t make fine distinctions between news and more personal information. They get news in a disaggregated way, often via friends.
- 18-21 year old college students are constantly texting and on Facebook—with calling and email distant seconds as ways of staying in touch, especially with friends.
- Students could live without their TVs and the newspaper, but they can’t survive without their iPods.
None of these results strike me as particularly surprising, but the methodology points in a useful direction. I’d love to see a study like this conducted among a more varied group of unpluggers, so we can find out about how different demographic groups (and especially age cohorts) respond to disconnection. Most of all, I’d love to find out how the unpluggers’ discovery of the benefits of going offline affect their strategies and approaches to using the Internet once they plugged back in.