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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?


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?

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