Recently we wrote about a McCann Worldgroup survey that revealed that the majority of 16-to 22-year olds would rather lose their sense of smell than give up their smartphones, laptops or social networks.
The actual survey centered around a hypothetical scenario where young people could only save two items among a list of choices – including cosmetics, car, passport, phone and sense of smell. Smell was the first to go among 53 percent of the aforementioned age group and 48 percent of those aged 23-30. The outcome prompted McCann to call technology the “fifth sense.”
Or course, the survey was based purely on hypotheticals. No one would dream of actually testing something so cruel…or would they?
Late last month, a small UK market research company, Intersperience, released a study detailing the effects of depriving a group of 1,000 participants of Internet access, smartphones and other devices for 24 hours. Many of the participants described giving up all forms of technology as similar to quitting drinking or smoking – with one person reporting that being deprived of the Internet was “like having my hand chopped off” and another describing it as a “nightmare” – and a total of 40 percent of the study group felt “lonely” when not engaged in activities such as social networking, emails, texting or watching their favorite television channels.
The Daily Mail noted that the experiment recalled a survey by researchers at the University of Maryland entitled “Unplugged,” in which volunteers had to stay away from all emails, text messages and updates on Facebook and Twitter while chronicling their feelings during their period of “information deprivation” in journals. Here, too, volunteers told of symptoms comparable to withdrawal, including “feeling fidgety, anxious and isolated,” and even reaching out for a phantom mobile phone.
Among the attention Intersperience received for its test, one cleverly titled Wall Street Journal blog item came out that sums up my feelings toward these surveys: “Does Technology Make Surveys Addictive?” And while so many found it easy to explain that it was a loss of technology itself that debilitated participants, WSJ’s Nick Clayton found an explanation that I can buy into a little more easily: “It is not quite clear how a lack of communications technology can be compared to the loss of a limb, but it provides an opportunity to quote other studies,” he notes. “Surprisingly, people enjoy using technology. Stop them from reading books, eating their favorite foods or checking the football scores on a Saturday afternoon and they will get twitchy.”
Have you unplugged for 24 hours recently? Think you’d go through withdrawal? I’m trying it starting now and will report my findings. Try it yourself, and let us know what you find.