Giving up media causes withdrawal symptoms

Coming off email, Facebook and Twitter is like giving up drugs, a study has found.

Scientists at the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) asked students at 12 universities around the world to abstain from using all media for 24 hours. They were then asked to describe their experience, reporting their successes and admitting to any failures.

“Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort,” wrote one student. “When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.”

The study authors found that the subjects found their televisions the easiest gadget to give up, with cellphones hardest of all. Many said the lack of a phone played havoc with their sense of time, and most owners said they could barely run their lives without one.

Many participants described withdrawal symptoms similar to those of coming off drugs. “We were not just seeing psychological symptoms, but also physical symptoms,” Dr Roman Gerodimos of the University of Portsmouth – who led the UK section of the international study – told the Daily Telegraph.

“I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” said one. “I feel like most people these days are in a similar situation, for between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin.”