Saturday, May 01, 2010

Hooked On Being Hooked In

A study on "A Day Without Media," which analyzes the behavior of twenty-first century college students concludes that "most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their media links to the world." A number of media outlets focused on the first finding listed: "Students use literal terms of addiction to characterize their dependence on media."

What's interesting to note is how quickly the condition of the students was further medicalized by the media, even though the data was derived from from a mass writing exercise, not a double-blind experimental study:

This new study conducted by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) asked 200 students at the University of Maryland, College Park to abstain from using all media for 24 hours. After their 24 hours of abstinence, the students were then asked to blog on private class websites about their experiences: to report their successes and admit to any failures. The 200 students wrote over 110,000 words: in aggregate, about the same number of words as a 400-page novel.

Reuters headlined its story with "U.S. students suffering from Internet addiction," even though this is really a story about the rhetoric of addiction that the students applied not a biochemical state of adaptation and physiological dependence.

As one can see from postings here, here, here, here, and here, I'm not a fan of the argument that pathologizes digital media by using "addiction" to describe "Internet addiction" or "videogame addiction." As a rhetorician, I think that people should admit when they are deploying rhetoric on their audience rather than act like it's all hard science they are presenting.

For more about the study, you can check out "Students Denied Social Media Go Through Withdrawal." And for more counterarguments, read Cathy Davidson's "Internet Addiction Debunked."

Thanks to Peter Krapp for the link.

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Blogger bob c said...

Are language and the written symbols we use considered "media"? Seems like we humans adapt quickly so it is no surprise that we use to excess as soon as we can. I'm addicted to Tomato sauce!

1:30 PM  

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