IGI Global Research Examines Social Media Detox and Its Effects on Human Health and Communication.

Does Digital Detox Cure Phone Addiction and Offer Better Communication?

By Anne Long on Mar 20, 2019
How many times a day do you check your phone? Although, cell phones have opened the door to vast communication feats, they have also allowed individuals to be in constant communication with one another through text messages, phone calls, emails, and social media, blurring the lines between work, family, and friends. According to a recent CNN article, cell phones provide instant gratification through constant connection and push notifications, altering individual’s brain chemistry, and enabling users to become addicted to these small digital devices. As such, many people are forgoing their devices and embracing the concept of “digital detox” to improve their mood and communication.

To examine this issue, Prof. Theresa Renee White from California State University Northridge, USA, analyzed various studies on Digital Detox and its effects in her chapter, “Digital Social Media Detox (DSMD): Responding to a Culture of Interconnectivity” from the IGI Global publication Social Media and the New Academic Environment: Pedagogical Challenges.

In her chapter, Prof. White analyzed reports made by three previous studies: one conducted by the University of Maryland (2010), another by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) (Deluca, 2011), and the third by InterSperience (Murphy, 2011). These studies suggested that addiction to the Internet is a growing risk, as their research subjects experienced withdrawal symptoms after removing themselves from their digital devices for 24 hours.

“Participants in the studies reported ‘shaking, tremors, and headaches,’ as well as feeling ‘upset and lonely’—classic physical and emotional symptoms of addiction,” said Prof. White. These symptoms corroborate the belief that phone addiction is detrimental to health and communication, with participants seemingly unable to feel comfortable and openly communicate without their devices.

However, it seems that constant connection through social media isn’t completely detrimental to human health and well-being. Instead, it may even foster greater opportunities for communication.

According to another study (Junco, 2011) in Prof. White’s analysis, “when a group of college students were required to use the online social network, Twitter, for class, results showed that Twitter granted students a more rich class discussion and allowed students to extend conversations that would not have been practical in the hour-long class sessions…And, most importantly, the results showed that through Twitter, students did not have traditional classroom boundaries and felt more comfortable engaging in discussion with one another.”

The results of Prof. White’s own experiment with digital detox were less conclusive.

“We cannot know how social media will continue to shape the millennial generation as its members grow into their 20s, 30s, and beyond,” said Prof. White. “But for now, the negative effects of the Internet on young people’s public interaction do not appear to be irrevocable. The participants in the Digital Social Media Detox program were eager to get back to their phones at the day’s end, but they all managed to live without Internet access for a day.”

So, while digital detox may help people reconnect with face-to-face communication in some circumstances, the integration of digital devices in our society is too prevalent to be dismissed altogether. Despite many studies on the detrimental effects of phone addiction and constant social media connectivity, experts remain divided on its effects on communication and people are not sure if digital detox will actually improve mental health, communication, and mood, and could only be a short-term solution.
For more information regarding this digital addiction, media literacy, and social networking, find below related publications and be sure to recommend these titles to your librarian to ensure your institution can acquire the most emerging research. Additionally, for researchers, all of the chapters featured in these publications are available for purchase through IGI Global’s OnDemand feature for as low as US$ 30.

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