What would you do if you had to go without any media contact for 24 hours? No cell phone, no TV, no texting. That was the assignment given to 200 students at the University of Maryland in a study that got some press last week.

The conclusion was that many of these kids were addicted to various forms of media, and actually suffered withdrawal when they weren’t able to access their favorite Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter social network or even log onto their laptop.

The study was conducted by UM’s International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA). The results do not bode well for a society that needs nationwide controls over cell phone, iPhone and iPad use while driving.

“I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” one student said. “I feel like most people these days are in a similar situation, for between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin.”

The addiction angle to this story is what’s drawing the attention of reporters and commentators. Within the mental health profession, there’s debate over what kinds of social behavior may or may not constitute addiction.

That issue aside, it’s easy to understand why, when you’re on the road, it seems every other person behind the wheel has a cell phone plastered to their ear. I’m sure there’s also a growing number surfing the Web for directions or catching up on gossip on Facebook.

In a blog accompanying the study, one student said: “Texting and IMing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort. When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.“

Another wrote: “Honestly, this experience was probably the single worst experience I have ever had.

“I got back from class around 5, frantically craving some technology and to look through my phone so I cheated a little bit and checked my phone. From my phone, I accessed text messages, close to a dozen missed calls, glanced at some emails, and acknowledged many twitter @replies from followers wondering where I was and if I was ok.

“At that moment, I couldn’t take it anymore being in my room…alone…with nothing to occupy my mind so I gave up shortly after 5pm. I think I had a good run for about 19 hours and even that was torture.”

What are the chances this person remains off-line when he gets into the car?

This week, the Florida Senate voted 34-4 to ban texting while driving, but analysts predict the bill will die in the House. But even if it did pass, drivers could only get a ticket if they’d been stopped for something else.

Hopefully, one day soon, lawmakers will get their priorities straight.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwanja/3170279816/

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