I must admit, when we recently put up a poll asking our users how long they could be away from the Internet before feeling "withdrawal symptoms," the tiny part of me that is still hopeful was envisioning a majority scoffing at such a silly question. Withdrawal symptoms? Ha! Silly Internet Evolution, asking us silly questions, all the live-long silly day...
But, alas, that's not what happened.
In fact, only 16 percent of those 100+ people who weighed in said they'd never feel withdrawal symptoms from being away from the Internet. The plurality, or 38 percent, gave it 24-48 hours.
What's worse is that 74 percent registered answers that fell somewhere between mere minutes and a week.
Here are the full results (in response to the question "How long can you be away from the Internet before you feel withdrawal symptoms?"):
Other findings have emerged recently that further drive home the point that we're in trouble. In a study by TeleNav, 22 percent of participants said they'd rather give up their toothbrush than their smartphone for a week. (Let it be known that this is 22 percent of the population that I hope never sits beside me on the subway.) Seventy percent would rather give up alcohol, 63 percent chocolate, 55 percent caffeine, and 54 percent exercise.
Another study conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Affairs (ICMPA) in partnership with the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change tested the ability of 1,000 university students worldwide to go "unplugged" for 24 hours. It uncovered some disturbing results. Some students felt they'd lost a part of themselves. Others experienced feelings of anxiety, depression, or loneliness. One student from the UK said, "I literally didn't know what to do with myself."
I hate to break it to you, but this isn't good news.
And with the proliferation of mobile apps, smartphone uses, and social tools that further intertwine everyone with each other and keep people shackled to the Web, these habits and patterns, this need to be connected... well, it's only bound to get worse.
On the other hand, and as a couple of our astute users suggested, society may be too quick to apply words like "withdrawal" and "addiction" to our behaviors. When the Web is within reach or in our pockets, the compulsion undoubtedly is there for many of us to check and see what may have developed on Facebook, Twitter, et al in the last 10 minutes. (Hence the fact that there's a market for tools like Concentrate and Freedom that shut down Web access.)
But I have a feeling that if we gave ourselves time away from the Web, we might find that we'd survive just fine. In fact, call me crazy, but I have a feeling we might find we like life in the real world even better.
— Nicole Ferraro , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution