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Information overload: Unplugged from the digital world

By C.J. CASTILLO
Oct. 29, 2010 at 5:29 a.m.
Updated Oct. 30, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.


Imagine going a day without the Internet, e-mail, text messages or television. You might ask, "Where do I sign up? That sounds like a nice vacation!"

However, the simple thought of such a thing may cause others to go into withdrawal.

Some young adults actually did participate in an experiment where they spent a day without digital devices or electronic media, as part of a global research project named Unplugged.

The project includes schools across North America, South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. The purpose of Unplugged is to look at the relationship young people have with media, including television, news, the Internet and mobile devices.

A recent study conducted on students at Bournemouth University in the U.K. revealed some interesting details. For 24-hours, students were without television, mobile phones, or Internet access.

Some students found it was difficult to avoid media, whether it was a TV in the student union, computers in the library, or a roommate using a phone or laptop.

Interesting were the comments made in the Unplugged blog for the Bournemouth students who logged entries after each finished their experiment.

One multimedia journalism student, Lottie Gross, wrote the following after getting back online: "There was a slight sense of guilt as I read through each text, none of them as urgent as I'd previously assumed... It's like some kind of disorder, an addiction. I became bulimic with my media; I starved myself for a full 15 hours and then had a full on binge."

In an interview with BBC News, Roman Gerodimos, who is leading Unplugged in the UK, said students in the experiment reported feeling withdrawal symptoms, isolation, nervousness or were overeating. In an article for ScienceDaily.com, Gerodimos also said the students "felt they lost connection with friends and family." However, the students also said the study gave them the opportunity to "reflect on the extent to which the media is part of their lives."

I suppose for young people who have grown up with access to news, messages and media 24/7 at the click of a button, it could be a challenge to go offline for a full day.

Could I do such a thing? On my day off, yes. After all, my title is interactivity editor here at the paper. Sorta need to be online to be interactive. But as someone who has taken a vacation and has been completely offline during that time, it is very nice. Don't get me wrong, technology is great and a wonderful tool. But it sure is nice to sit down and read a book or spend time with family and friends, without any screens, texts or ringtones to get in the way.

To read the Bournemouth Unplugged blogs, visit http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/unplugged/.

CJ Castillo is the interactivity editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can contact her at cjcastillo@vicad.com. Or you can be cool and go old school, send her a letter, c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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