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Matt Bowe
Scott Merrow
WRIT 1301
10/19/14
Modern Media Addiction
The International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, ICMPA, is a news research
and public policy organization at the University of Maryland. The ICMPA published an essay
titled Students Addicted to Social Media, which summarizes the results of a study that the
ICMPA conducted in 2010, named 24 Hours: Unplugged. This study collected data from twohundred University of Maryland students who voluntarily gave up all forms of digital technology
that could give them access to media for one twenty four hour block of time. After the twenty
four hours without access to media, the students were required to blog their experiences. After
the study came to a close and results were gathered, the ICMPA concluded that, Most college
students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their media links to the
world (483). Without doubt, the ICMPA correctly pinpoints, through their study, that college
students are addicted to media.
Shortly after the ICMPAs study came to a close, researchers began scanning carefully
through all two-hundred blogs. The students blogs overwhelmingly showed that abstaining from
media for one whole day was difficult. Many students even blogged that they were obviously
addicted to media, one student stated, I clearly am addicted [to media] and the dependency is
sickening (483). Students were not reserved about their dependencies on media. The ICMPA
concluded that there are two main reasons why college students are addicted to media. The first
main reason is that students use media as a source of social connection. Students hated how they
lost connections to their friends and family when they didnt have access to media (484). The

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second main reason is that college students access news stories through media, even if the news
sources are informal, and that, similar to reason one, when the students didnt have access to
news they felt disconnected (484). It was clear to the ICMPA that college students use media to
connect personally with family and friends and to have access to news sources, but when they
take media away students become disconnected, resulting in anxiety and visible symptoms of
addiction.
The ICMPA did a fantastic job of explaining why students are addicted to media. The
ICMPAs results were so conclusive that they stated, American college students today are
addicted to media, describing their feelings when they have to abstain from using media in
literally the same terms associated with drug and alcohol addictions: In withdrawal, Frantically
Craving, Very Anxious, Extremely Antsy, Miserable, Jittery, Crazy (483). Indeed, it is clear
that college students are addicted to media. In Students Addicted to Social Media, they focus
on the study results from 24 Hours: Unplugged, and they show why students are addicted to
media, but they barely touch on how students access media through modern digital technology
and why digital technology plays a large role in the college students addictions.
Digital technology is directly associated with media consumption and addiction because
it gives college students access to media. Smart phones, laptops, televisions, tablets, and
countless other popular digital devices are how students consume media hourly, let alone daily.
The most popular and most up and coming digital device is the smartphone. Almost every
college student owns a smartphone and they are used for large amounts of time each day.
According to Kathiann Kawolski, a researcher and author for Student Science, a popular
technology and engineering website, The average college student uses their smartphone for
about nine hours a day. (Watch Out: Cell Phones Can Be Addictive). Some college students

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spend more time during their day on their smartphone than they do sleeping at night. With an
average of nine hours of use a day, college students are accessing media almost constantly. Now,
many people may argue that just because college students use their smartphones a lot does not
mean they are necessarily addicted to media, as there is not enough information for a diagnosis
for addiction. However, Tracii Ryan, a psychologist at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia
explains that Withdrawal and excessive use are certainly two legitimate symptoms of addiction
(Watch Out: Cell Phones Can Be Addictive). Ryan explains that just excessive use doesnt mean
addiction, but when symptoms of withdrawal and anxiety are present when the smartphone dies
or isnt in sight then diagnosis of addiction is possible. This same principle goes for other digital
technologies, this includes television, tablets, and laptops, which allow constant access to media.
If when media or media enabling devices are taken away college students feel withdrawal
symptoms or anxiety then they may be addicted.
The ICMPA isnt the only organizations conducting studies that relate to media
addiction. A study of 164 students at Baylor University also shows that many students are
addicted to their smartphones and media consumption. Baylors study reveals that
Approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone
(Cellphone Addiction is An Increasingly Realistic Possibility Baylor Study of College
Students Reveals). Its clear that media addiction is evident throughout college campuses
nationwide. Baylors study didnt stop there, Baylor wanted to know what about media was so
addictive and why college students get addicted to media more clearly. James Roberts, Ph.D., at
the University of Baylor explains [The] Study shows that people who are addicted to their
cell phones [and media] are primarily using them as a way to stay connected to other people
(Our Creepy Attachment To Cell Phones Could Be An Addiction). People become attached to

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media and media enabling devices when they use them to build relationships or keep in touch
with people they already have relationships with. This makes sense because as the Baylor study
went more in depth they found that a survey of all 164 students showed Respondents overall
reported spending the most time texting (an average of 94.6 minutes a day), followed by sending
emails (48.5 minutes), checking Facebook (38.6 minutes), surfing the internet (34.4 minutes) and
listening to their iPods. (26.9 minutes) (Cellphone Addiction is An Increasingly Realistic
Possibility, Baylor Study of College Students Reveals). Armed with this knowledge of how
people spend their time on their phones it is clear that the students are mainly using their phones
and media to communicate with other people. The reason why this makes media addictive is it
unintentionally makes college students dependent on media and digital technology to stay
connected and live out their social lives. When students lose this connection, they feel
disconnected and out of the loop, which makes them feel like they are missing something. This
in turn creates anxiety and withdrawal, symptoms of addiction.
Not only are students using media to stay connected socially with friends and family, but
college students use social media as news sources. Jesse Holcomb, Jeffrey Gottfried, and Amy
Mitchell worked together on an article titled News Use Across Social Media Platforms to
research just how many people received news on social networking sites. The numbers were
astounding. Sixty four percent of U.S. adults have Facebook, fifty percent of these adult users
receive news through Facebook (News Use Across Social Media Platforms). Millions of U.S
adults, college students included, use social networking sites as news sources. When you take
away media, college students no longer have connection to news and, just like losing personal
and social connections, become anxious and show symptoms of addiction.

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The study of media addiction is a new and evolving field that still has a lot of questions to
answer, but some things are already clear. College students show symptoms of addiction to
media, digital technology is directly associated with media addiction because it gives college
students access to media, and college students use media to connect personally and socially with
family and friends and as an informal news source on social networking sites. Studies from
multiple reliable sources, including two universities, say that college students are addicted to
media. Students Addicted to Social Media discovered what many others are starting to
discover as well, American college students today are addicted to media (483).

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Works Cited
Almendrala, Anna. "Our Creepy Attachment To Cell Phones Could Be An Addiction." The
Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 Sept. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
Goodrich, Terry. "Cellphone Addiction Is an Increasingly Realistic Possibility,Baylor Study of
College Students Reveals." Baylor University Media Communications. Baylor
University, 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.

Holcomb, Jesse, Jeffrey Gottfried, and Amy Mitchell. "News Use Across Social Media
Platforms." Pew Research Centers Journalism Project RSS. PewResearch Journalism
Project, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.

International Center for Media and the Public Agenda. "Students Addicted to Social
Media."Signs of Life in the USA. 7th editors. Boston: Bedford/St
Martins, 2012. 483-87. Print.
Kawolski, Kathiann. "Watch Out: Cell Phones Can Be Addictive." Student Science. N.p., 17
Sept. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.

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