Students suffer media withdrawal within hours of going without

A Day Without Media
Students use the language of addiction and withdrawal in talking about their experiences going without technology for 24 hours during a study at the University of Maryland's Phillip Merrill College of Journalism.

"I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening," said one student. "Although I started the day feeling good, I noticed my mood started to change around noon. I started to feel isolated and lonely," said another. That language was just one highlight of the study conducted in February and March of this year.

Probably more important for journalists is that "Students hate going without media. In their world, going without media, means going without their friends and family." Students equated technology with media -- the phones, iPods, computers, laptops and televisions were just a means to get to information, whether that information was about the world around them, or about their friends. And much of that technology is mobile. Phones in particular were students' connection to the world, via texting and Facebook, with calling and e-mail falling behind.

Other highlights were that students had little or no loyalty to particular news outlets, and "don't make fine distinctions between news and more personal information."

The study was conducted with a class of 200 students, who were allowed to chose one day in a nine-day window to go completely without media: "no Internet, no newspapers or magazines, no TV, no cell phones, no iPod, no music or movies, etc. And definitely no Facebook." Students then wrote about their experience on a class blog and filled out a demographic survey. Teaching assistants coded the responses and analyzed the data.

There's a lot of interesting material to chew over for those creating mobile content, but here's the main conclusion of the study for journalists:

"...students don't care about newspapers or TV news broadcasts or even blogs, but covet the information that comes to them through a diverse and circuitous pathway of devices, platforms, applications and sites. A truer mapping of those pathways could provide direction to journalists in their search for relevance in the century ahead."

>Journalism professor asks students to unplug (Minnesota Daily)

  • Regina McCombs

    Regina McCombs is a faculty member of The Poynter Institute, teaching multimedia, and social and mobile journalism. She was the senior producer for multimedia at in Minneapolis-St. Paul for 11 years.


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