Study: Giving Up Internet Like Trying to Quit Smoking

A recent study reveals that the majority of people exhibit signs of frustration and loneliness when they are deprived of access to the Internet.

Fifty three percent of participants said they feel upset when denied access to the viral world and 40 percent reported feeling lonely. According to the study, most people experience these feelings even if denied access for a short period of time.

One thousand people over the age of 18 participated in the study that was carried out by British consumer research firm Intersperience. The participants answered questions regarding their attitudes and feelings to the use of the internet, smart phones, and other digital devices. They were then instructed to go 24 hours without access to any Internet technology.

According to the study, one person surveyed described no Internet access as “like having my hand chopped off.” Others described it as similar difficulty to quitting drinking or smoking.

The study reveals that a significant number of participants cheated by using the television or radio because they did not “regard them as technology.”

Other participants agreed to the challenge but kept their cell phones on silent, stating that being completely disconnected – even for only one day – is impossible.

The younger participants had the most trouble giving up technology. Younger people are reportedly the heaviest users of social media and text messaging. Older people over the age of 40 were able to adapt more easily without their technology.

Only 23 percent of those surveyed had a positive attitude about going offline, stating that they would feel “free.”

 “Online and digital technology is increasingly pervasive, influencing our friendships, the way we communicate, the fabric of our family life, our work lives, our buying habits and our dealings with organizations,” said Paul Hudson, chief executive of Intersperience, as quoted by the Daily Telegraph.

Andrew Gaddy, a recent Virginia Tech graduate, says he thinks he could give up technology for a day but really would not want to.

“Going without facebook or a cell phone for a whole day would be a fish out of water type scenario. There would be a lot of uncoordinated flapping going on, followed shortly thereafter by social death.”

Similarly to the British study, in 2010 researchers at the University of Maryland had hundreds of students from 12 colleges around the world agree not to use any technological devices – including radio and television – for 24 hours. The study was appropriately titled “Unplugged.”

For the participants, this meant no emails, text messages, Facebook, and twitter, among other things. Even newspapers were not allowed. The students were only allowed a landline phone and books. Students were then instructed to keep a journal describing their feelings during the digital detox.

The purpose of the study was to get a glimpse into how media and technology are redesigning how students work, socialize, think, and feel. U.S. students reported feelings of absolute boredom. According to the report, “many students admitted to a failure of imagination to come up with any other activity to replace their time with media. They reported a lack of desire to do anything, and a surprising number reported that they were reduced to cleaning, doing laundry or even just staring at the wall.”

Savail Majid, a recent law graduate from George Washington University and avid social media user, doubts he would just sit and stare at a wall if forced to give up digital technology. He predicts he’d actually would have more time and energy to pursue other interests.

“I’d be so productive. Wall Street would have an aneurysm, I’d probably be CEO of some company in a week,” says Majid.

According to the results of both the Maryland and British studies, it’s safe to assume digital media has become a very crucial aspect in the lives of many citizens.