A recent study shows that students are finding it increasingly difficult to distance themselves from the extensive reach of social media as technology continues to develop in the Information Age, making life without instantaneous status updates almost unimaginable.

The International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland conducted a study earlier this year in which it asked 200 students to refrain from all social media for 24 hours. After an entire day of ignoring their Facebook and e-mail accounts and turning off Blackberries and iPhones, the students were asked to reflect on their experiences in a blog. A university news release reported that students claimed they were “in withdrawal,”extremely antsy,”miserable” and “crazy,” according to The Washington Post.

Students reported being disgusted with their dependency on social media, with some noticing physical affects, such as fidgeting, and others claiming they felt completely alone and isolated from other humans, according to The Washington Post.

Diana Owen, associate professor of political science and the director of American studies, did not know of any plans to conduct a similar study at Georgetown, but she appreciated the work done at the University of Maryland.

“I am not surprised by the findings of the UMD study that some students experience physical and psychological withdrawal when they are separated from their digital devices for a single day,” Owen said in an e-mail.

Owen highlighted the positive effects that the technological evolution has had on the learning environment here at Georgetown, but she also noted the drawbacks of having certain devices easily accessible.

“The impact of media and technology on student learning is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, new technologies offer increased learning opportunities, especially as they facilitate access to information, interactive learning, and innovation in the presentation of knowledge. However, they are an impediment to student learning on a variety of fronts,” Owen said.

Georgetown students expressed both amazement and understanding at the reactions of their peers at UMD. Irene Chang (SFS ’10) thought that she would be able to handle 24 hours without any form of social media.

“I think I’ve done it before. It depends. If you’re occupied and have something that you’re doing, then I feel like you wouldn’t really think about it if you’re already with friends or with people, but if you’re not really busy or not with people, it could be more of an issue,” Chang said.

Helen Lee (NHS ’11) believed she could live without some forms of social media, too, but was a little concerned about missing one form in particular.

“I think that [going without] Internet and Facebook and stuff wouldn’t be that bad, but [without a] phone. I’d get kind of antsy,” Lee said.

Sara Nichols (COL ’11) was confident that she could keep herself away from social media for an entire day.

“I could go without social media, but everyone else would miss me too much. Gotta keep the people happy,” Nichols said via text message.

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