AA #2a: 24 Hours: Unplugged

18 Mar

So, I’ve been having a little bit of a time trying to find legit articles…it’s really easy to come across a great deal of opinion, not so much in terms of empirical research. I know it’s out there; it’s just floating amongst the sea of opinion. Lots….and lots…of opinion.

The next article I found was entitled 24 Hours: Unplugged. I have to admit, going in to this one I already had my doubts, as ‘addicted’ is a very heavy word to use, but was used through the course of the entire study to describe student behaviours in regards to the internet. The basis of the study was that it wanted to see how ‘badly’ 200 students at the University of Maryland, College Park going 24 hours without social media would affect the students mentally and physically. This occurred on one day, of their choice during the week of February 24th 2010 to March 4th 2010. Coincidentally, this was the same week that Chile was hit by a large earthquake (February 27th) and that the Vancouver Olympics ended (February 28th). Since they were given the freedom to decide which day they wanted to sacrifice, some chose the weekend, anticipating that ignoring their media would be easier if they had distractions such as outdoor activities or road trips. Others chose a weekday, claiming that not a great deal happens during the week, so it would be easier to manage than the weekend. The study was issued as an assignment to JOUR 175: Media Literacy students, and at the end were asked to write a blogpost on the results afterward. This included any feelings, sentiments, or honest reactions of giving up.

Demographically, the study consisted of 200 students, all between the ages of 18-21. Women outnumbered men in the study, 55.9% to 44.1%, respectively. Also, 75.6% of the class identified as Caucasian, 9.4% as Black, 6.3 Asian, 1.6% Latino, 3.1% as a mixed race, 3.9% as Other. 40.9% of the students reported being first year students, 40.9% as sophomores, 11% juniors, and 7.1% being seniors and above.

Once the 24 hour period passed, the six PhD TAs of the course collected all of the blogging data and performed a qualitative analysis on everything that the students reported as a result of forgoing 24 hours of social media. Textual analysis was performed using WordTree, Tag Cloud, Phrase Net, and Word Cloud generator to define and follow trends amongst the students.

The results demonstrated the following:

  • Students felt bereft without their cell phones, iPods, access to Facebook, and overall, students did not care to write anything out by hand, ask anyone for the time, and felt their lives “moved slower.”
  • Students openly admitted to being addicted to social media, and stated they hated the assignment, hated going without their stuff, and hated being media-free. Some students even said that once they got out of the experiment they ran back to their rooms, ‘craving internet.’
  • Without their media, students felt bored to distraction, and cut off from their friends and family.
  • Several students failed the experiment and extending back into social media to talk to friends, family, or listen to music.
  • Students who succeeded in the experiment spent more time on course work and being productive, and re-established the value of quality time.

The final conclusions state that the devices that the students are using are not to blame, but the fact social media is everywhere can have profound moral and social implications. However, it is then said that we have no control on how these things or habits are learned, let alone how they pay roles in our lives. We should take note that marketers will use this to their advantage, and that we should be held more responsible for what we let enter our lives in terms of social media.

I think my biggest issue with this paper is that it puts social media in such a light that it is this horrible, nasty, foul entity that is destroying a student’s life. The paper portrays these blogpost responses at testimonies of young adults crying out for a social media I-V. It documents that a total of 111,107 words were written by these students, but it doesn’t give anything such as an average amount of words per student. Speaking as a student, I tend to write….foreever. I could probably make 1,000 of those words on my own account, which 200 of me x 1,000 words = 200,000 words. There are also students who just fill out what they need to so they can get out. “How did this make you feel? -> Fine.” Is this really a reflection of the body of students? I’m going to make an assumption here, but despite the fact that this is a journalism class, wouldn’t it be somewhat safe to assume that students in higher classification are more likely to write more? Given the demographic data, over 80% of the population was new or second year students. Likewise, it criticizes universities as being at fault for not teaching students what is and isn’t ok as social media norms. Based on their reasoning, all teaching and studying mechanisms should be conducted on Facebook and through PodCasts – and I’m pretty sure there are studies out politely debunking that. This avoids acknowledgement of learning styles, personal experiences, and thought, but very quickly says that colleges should be teaching us how to use the internet, that marketers are purposely targeting fickle populations (thanks for the compliment, guys…), and that journalists should just accept that everything is going digital. Perhaps this could be more relevant if we did more students, or a wider age range?

Speaking as a student, I listen to music whenever I’m working (I’m listening to Daft Punk right now), and it just helps me focus on the work and getting things done. Yet, when I have to be at work-work (my second job), I interact with people just fine. I don’t check my phone every 2 minutes, I don’t feel the ‘itch’ to text, and I don’t think that Facebook is moving without me. I’ve walked campus in silence, I lounge in memorial mall and do nothing. I think I came out just fine, really. I know many others that can attest to that-maybe even 200 others. Are we sure we’re not assuming ‘addiction’ is synonymous with ‘entertainment’? I think everyone is allowed their own distraction-and mine just happens to be my iPod.

-Vanessa B!


Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “AA #2a: 24 Hours: Unplugged

  1. narayun

    March 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Totally agree that I am much more productive when I am not wired. I start checking Facebook/Email/Twitter/Reddit and realize I have wasted a good hour or so……but I do think it’s a good way for me to be aware and informed.

    on the other side…

    “I think my biggest issue with this paper is that it puts social media in such a light that it is this horrible, nasty, foul entity that is destroying a student’s life”

    I totally spewed water all over my monitor when I read that. You never stop to bore me with your opinions:-)

    • msvanessab

      March 20, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      Seriously, that’s what it sounded like toward the end. Yes, some distractions are bad. Yes, we might spend to much time plugged in on a regular basis. As long as I get my stuff done, why is it a concern? Sure, you could argue in the case of trolls that it leads to a development of socializing ‘malfunction’, but is it really wrong to want to talk to your dad daily? Or to browse YouTube for new music? Or to utilize Facebook as a means to keep in touch with your friends across the globe? It’s a way of extending to others for a lot of people, and this paper made it seem like these students didn’t know how to socialize at all if it wasn’t through an Android or SNS.

  2. Mihaela

    March 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Blegh, some huge limitations here:

    First of all, asking people to go without cell phones is not the same as going without social media. Someone needs to explain to me how an iPod is social media. Was it allowed to listen to the radio or watch TV? Why? How are those different, then?

    Second, if you ask people to stay alone in a room and not communicate with anyone at all (not even face to face) they will experience very unpleasant feelings. They withdraw communication to the most dangerous people in prison for a reason.

    What they did in this study, it seems, was to create social isolation and a bit of sensory deprivation. Of course the students would feel horrible.


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