Media Addicts

13 Apr

Instead of discussing how college students are talked about and perceived by the media, today I want to talk about the effect of the media on undergraduates.

Apparently, college students are addicts.

Or at least they act like them when it detached from electronic media for 24 hours.

A recent trial conducted at the University of Maryland’s International Center for Media & Public Affiars (ICMPA) and the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change, researched the behavior of students across five continents.

According to Yahoo! News, “What they found is basically this: if you’re under the age of 25, anywhere in the world, you’re likely addicted to some form of media, whether it be Facebook, a smartphone, TV or instant messaging.”

Students described feeling like “crackheads” without their phones, with some even flat out saying that media was a drug to them.

One student from China recalled in the study:

“I would feel irritable, tense, restless and anxious when I could not use my mobile phone. When I couldn’t communicate with my friends, I felt so lonely, as if I was in a small cage in a solitary island.”

Although media addiction is not currently a clinical diagnosis, according to the study, students exhibited signs of physical dependency. Some were able to cope by engaging with personal contact with family and friends.

It is crazy to imagine feeling and acting like a person with a dependency on drugs, but I recall moments when my phone battery was dead or I had lost my phone when I felt completely out of sync and lost at times. Could media addiction become a clinical diagnosis for this generation?

Recently in my Neuroethics class we discussed a rather disturbing case in which a Korean couple became so addicted to a Second-Life type online game called Prius in which they raised a virtual child that their own real infant withered away and eventually died of starvation, according to a Telegraph article.

“The couple seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life, because they didn’t have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby,” Chung Jin-won, a police officer in Suwon, the Seoul suburb, told the Yonhap news agency.

“They indulged themselves in the online game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby.”

According to my professor the mother received a reduced sentence because her Internet addition was taken into account. What are your thoughts on this?

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10 Things Your College Student Won’t Tell You, Pt. 2

4 Apr

SmartMoney magazine, The Wall Street Journal Magazine of Personal Business, has been around since 1992. It has a recurring “10 Things” feature that covers all kinds of things—including “10 Things Your Spouse Won’t Tell You,” “10 Things Emergency Rooms Won’t Tell You,” and the one that is of interest to us—“10 Things Your College Student Won’t Tell You.” Here is the continued list:

4. “College life can be hazardous to my health.”

According to Kristin Kovner, writer for SmartMoney, the university experience is “marred by physical and mental health issues ranging from anorexia and communicable diseases to depression.” However, she most prominently highlights suicide, which according to her accounts for approximately 1,000 student deaths every year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 1,350 college students commit suicide each year—with accidents being the number one leading cause.

Carla Cantor, author of Phantom Illness: Recognizing, Understanding, and Overcoming Hypochondria, writes in a Psychology Today blog:

“Parents whose college-age children have killed themselves are often startled to discover that campus administrators, faculty and other personnel were well aware that these students were seriously suicidal.”

Many times because of privacy laws and the legal adulthood of the students, universities choose not to inform students.

5. “My resume isn’t the only thing I have posted on the Internet.”

It is no secret that college students love to use social-networking sites to meet, chat, post photos, and write about just about anything. Which is why many may have noticed that recently middle names or psuedo names have replaced the once full name of many students. Why? It is job/internship search time and that means concealing the compromising images of underage drinking on websites like Facebook. With most peers posting and sharing many personal aspects of their lives and social lives, employers have taken to looking at social networking sites of potential candidates. This is no new phenomenon. In a 2006 CBS News article, Dunia Rkein, a then-college sophomore expressed her views:

“Rkein agrees that the social-networking site for students consists primarily of pictures of people partying and says “I hope that employers aren’t looking at it too in-depthly.”

The bad news is that employers are doing just that.”

“There are students who work like crazy on their GPA, but don’t think twice about what they’re posting on Facebook,” Lauren Steinfeld, chief privacy officer at the University of Pennsylvania told SmartMoney. 

Facebook, however, has its benefits. A 2007 study at Michigan State University examined the site’s ability to build social capital for its users.

“Because online relationships may be supported by technologies like distribution lists, photo directories, and search capabilities (Resnick, 2001), it is possible that new forms of social capital and relationship building will occur in online social network sites.”

6. “Just because I was a straight arrow in high school doesn’t mean I will be in college.”

Kovner cites a couple of statistics that are quite scary:

  • Each year 2.8 million college drunk, and 1,700 die from alcohol-related injuries
  • Nearly half a million engage in unprotected sex
  • Almost 100,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape
  • 29 percent say that have used prescription drugs like Vicodin, Ritalin and Adderall recreationally

It all boils down to access and freedom, according to Sue Foster, vice president and director of policy research for the National Center on Addition and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

The future is not so glum though, last year fewer than half of UCLA freshman said they had drank a beer while high school seniors.

Here are 7-10:

7. “My grades are none of your business.”

8. “I’ll do just about anything for money.”

9. “I’m up to my ears in credit card debt . . .”

10.  “. . . so I’ll be moving back home after graduation.”

10 Things Your College Student Won’t Tell You at Duke

20 Mar

SmartMoney magazine, The Wall Street Journal Magazine of Personal Business, has been around since 1992. It has a recurring “10 Things” feature that covers all kinds of things—including “10 Things Your Spouse Won’t Tell You,” “10 Things Emergency Rooms Won’t Tell You,” and the one that is of interest to us—“10 Things Your College Student Won’t Tell You.” Here is the top there:

1. “Sure, I’ve cheated. Who hasn’t?”

According to SmartMoney’s Kristin Kovner, 70% of students now admit to cheating with unsourced material from the Internet quadrupling between 2000 and 2006. However, that’s not what is most disturbing. Kovner says 77% of students don’t consider it a “very serious” problem. She also cites mobile devices as a reason the problem has intensified.

Indeed, this last year Duke had a very serious incident of mass cheating. A “handful” of Chemistry 31 introductory class “Core Concepts in Chemistry,” acquired a copy of an exam given in an earlier period and looked up the answers before taking the test during their designated slot. The professors became aware of the issue after some students reported rumors. Stephan Bryan, associate dean of students and director of the Office of Student Conduct, offered a reduced punishment for those who turned in, while those who didn’t and were found guilty were suspended.

2. “’Studying abroad” is one big party.”

2006 was designated the “Year of Study Abroad” by Congress because according to Jessica Townsend, former program manager at the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship, “[They] want the next generation of adults to be in touch with their national and global citizenship.”

However, study abroad programs are not always viewed that way. Instead, they are often seen as easy classes in places where drinking is legal for those who would have otherwise been underage in the United States. A 2005 Chronicle article titled “Study abroad programs offer culture, easy classes,“ explores this very topic. Many students quoted in the article describe their study abroad experience as a “GPA booster.”

In defense of the programs, Margaret Riley, director of study abroad, told the Chronicle:

“There’s a different approach to the presentation of the materials abroad, and this is viewed by students as being simpler, but it’s not. They’re being held responsible for learning that material rather than having their professors guide them through the process and continually assess their work.”

3. “I’d stay here forever if you’d pay for it.”

According to Kovner, at the time the article was written, 53% of students in a standard undergraduate program get their bachelor’s degree within five years. At a costly private institution like Duke, how many students come back for a “victory lap”? A simple search in The Chronicle article gave many results about athletes staying for a fifth year and one lone column discussing the extenuating circumstances that led to him coming back and the challenges he faced for being a fifth year senior at Duke where isn’t common, unlike other schools.

Check back later this week when I go over 4-6 on the list: “College life can be hazardous to my health,” “My resume isn’t the only thing I have posted on the Internet,” and “Just because I was a straight arrow in high school doesn’t mean I will be in college.”

On the Decline: Empathy

6 Mar

Alright, let’s start today off with a bit of an experiment. Answer these statements with one of the following: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, or strongly agree.

  • I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.
  • I try to look at everybody’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision.
  • Sometimes I don’t feel very sorry for other people when they are having problems.
  • When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective towards them.
  • Other people’s misfortunes do not disturb me a great deal.
  • I am often quite touched by things that I see happen.
  • I sometimes find it difficult to see things from the “other guy’s” point of view.

Disagree? Turns out college students today do. In the important indices of empathy such as empathetic concern and perspective taking, students score 48% and 34% lower than students 30 years ago. Meaning that they are 40% less empathetic—with numbers plummeting after 2000.

True, it is difficult to settle on a definition for empathy. Dr. Sara Konrath from the University of Michigan tried testing for aspects of “interpersonal sensitivity”: empthatic concern (sympathy) over the misfortune of others, perspective taking, tendency to identify imaginatively in an fictional world, and personal distress garnering those striking results.

Studies in the past have shown increasing narcissism among college students since the 1980s as well as Americans in general.

These results are sadly not surprising to researchers.

“I’m not surprised,” Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist and an author of a new book “Born to Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered” told the New York Times. “But I was hoping it wasn’t as rapid a deterioration as this study suggests.”

This leaves me with the same question as last week. What is the cause?

Kornath seems to have at least a suggestion.

“We don’t actually know what the causes are at this point,” Dr. Konrath said. “But the authors speculate a millennial mixture of video games, social media, reality TV and hyper-competition have left young people self-involved, shallow and unfettered in their individualism and ambition.”

Studying & Learning Less

27 Feb

You may have heard some form of the phrase, “When I was your age…” After discussion about the perception of college students in the media I decided to find out what exactly is being said about college students. My method was not very scientific, but the results were.

A simple Google search brought up these interesting results:

Google search for "College students today"

While students are leaving their high schools with perfect 4.0 grade point averages and SAT scores, once students get to college they’re not doing one thing: studying.

A recent study by two California economic professors found that over the last five decades the numbers of hours that students study have declined drastically.

Philip Babcock, at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks, at the University of California Riverside, analyzed time-use surveys—which showed that the average student at a four-year college in 1961 studied for about 24 hours each week, while today the average student only studies for about 14 hours.

This trend seems to apply to all demographics—major, gender, race or size of school.

“It’s not just limited to bad schools,” Babcock told the Boston Globe. “We’re seeing it at liberal arts colleges, doctoral research colleges, masters colleges. Every different type, every different size. It’s just across the spectrum. It’s very robust. This is just a huge change in every category.”

Furthermore, in a many surveys since 2000, college and high school students have admitted that they are studying very little or not at all.

Skeptics of these finding claim that students do so much more these days like hold jobs and extracurricular activities, but that they also have tools that are much more efficient. However, Babcock and Mark claim that the greatest decline, 24.4 hours per week to 16.8, took place between 1961 and 1981 before the Internet came about.

Another recent study by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia, showed that 45 percent of college students show no significant improvement in their critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by sophomore year, according to CBS News.

So if students aren’t studying or learning, what are students doing with an education that can be hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Real Life Mischief

20 Feb

All this talk about mischievous college students in the media made me wonder what real life pranks have come close to meeting the legendary status of Animal House‘s horse in the Dean’s office prank. Luckily, Time Magazine and the Huffington Post put together a pretty comprehensive list.

Here are my top 3:

1. 100,000 fans at the 1961 a Rose Bowl game between the University of Washington Huskies and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers were packed by CalTech’s “Fiendish Fourteen”. Washington cheerleaders had planned a a display of the word “Huskies” and the mascot in the crowd through the use of flip cards, but instead at halftime when fans turned their colored flip-cards “Caltech” was spelled out for millions of fans to witness in the stands and on TV.

The “Fiendish Fourteen” later revealed that one of them had posed as a reporter to get a detailed account of the cheerleader’s flip-card system. They later snuck into the Washington cheerleaders’ hotel rooms and switched the instruction sheets resulting in a prank that stunned television announcers, fans, and the band—who actually stopped playing after the big reveal. In 2004, the stunt was taken as inspiration at the Harvard-Yale game, where Yale students handed out placards that later spelled out the message: “We Suck.”

2. Some computer experts believe that MIT pranksters created the world’s first computer virus. Students in 1970 had their work brought to a halt when the word “cookie” flashed across their computer screens. Unless the user immediately typed in the word “cookie” the screen would speed up continuing to display “Cookie, cookie, give me a cookie” over and over again. Eventually after a couple of minutes of panic for students who thought they had lost all of their work, the screen would flash, “I didn’t want a cookie anyway,” and disappear. However, if students had typed in cookie before that the computer would flash and the invasion would discontinue.

3. According to the Huffington Post, in 1930 two editors from the Cornell Daily Sun, the Cornell student newspaper, wrote letters to Republican leaders around the country requesting them to honor Hugo N. Frye, Cornell’s “little-known patriot” who was “deprived of the fame that should have been his fro his part in the Republican Party in New York State.” Of course there was a catch: he didn’t exist. Many politicians responded—including Charles Curtis, vice president during the Hoover administration. Curtis sent his apologies for not being about to attend the remembrance ceremony. He wrote, “I congratulate the Republicans on paying respect to the memory of Hugo N. Frye, and I wish you a most successful occasion.

I was pretty unconvinced that students put that much thought into pranking outside of the fictitious world of colleges in film, but if these lists have proved me wrong.

These are all horse in the Dean’s office pranks in their own way. Do you know of any legendary college pranks?

Party Tunes

15 Feb

This alcohol fueled image of college students transcends beyond film and into music. One song jumps into my head as the college anthem of the recent years, “I Love College” by Asher Roth. I remember this song being played over and over again my sophomore year.

This first single released by Roth is a song about the college parties that he attended while at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Set at a fraternity party, the music video has appearances by the famed Solo cup I discussed a couple days ago being used for binge drinking, hook-ups, marijuana, strip poker, and beer pong.

Although I’ve seen and heard about a lot of what was mentioned in the catchy song, the music video takes it to an extreme. A commenter from YouTube even mentions his excitement to attend such a crazy parties once he gets to college. My experience and those of my friends is limited, so I have to ask—have any of you gone to a party worth writing a song about or does this music video play into the stereotype of college?

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