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College students and technology: A love-hate relationship

The results of a study released earlier this month show how much college students depend on social networking and texting to communicate with each other – but also how confusing this technology-driven world has become.

mtvU, MTV’s 24-hour college network, teamed up with The Jed Foundation and The Associated Press to examine how technology and being constantly connected is affecting students’ emotional well-being.

Not surprisingly, they found that technology functions as a critical lifeline for college students, with 90% saying they had visited a social network in the previous week, and approximately 4 out of 10 saying they have 500+ friends on those networks. However, I in 7 also say that social networking sites increase feelings of isolation.

Many students appear unable to reach across the technological divide: while 70% report reading a post from someone close that seemed like a cry for help, fewer than half responded with a personal visit. Alarmingly, one in five students have friends who have talked about wanting to end their lives in the past year.

The constant stream of e-mails, texts, and online posts only adds to the confusion. 48% of students say they have trouble interpreting messages, unsure about whether the sender was serious or joking. Nearly 70% admit having an argument exclusively via text messaging, despite acknowledging that a face-to-face meeting would probably have resolved the conflict.

The study was released as part of mtvU and The Jed Foundation’s “Half of Us” campaign, which explores how technology is impacting college student’s emotional health. New programming on the topic has aired on mtvU and online at www.halfofus.com.

Stress appears to be a fact of life on college campuses today, with 62% of students reporting that they have felt so stressed in the previous three months that they didn’t want to hang out with friends or participate in social activities. This represents a significant increase over the previous year (53%).

Yet, college students continue to report high levels of personal happiness. Over 80% of students say they are somewhat/very happy with how things are going in their life, compared to 75% in a similar 2009 study.

Although digital communication may add to stress levels at college, few students are prepared to give it up. In fact, 57% of students saying that removing technology completely from their lives would make things more stressful, twice the number of students who say it would have a calming effect.

Comment by MP, GoGoStat Parental Guidance, posted 10/29/2010, 10:56 AM:

Those are some very interesting findings, especially the 53% increase for students being too stressed to hang out with friends.
On another note,the 70% of people that have had an argument exclusively via text messaging is intriguing. That is probably the worst way to argue with someone, next to smoke signals. Technology has so many great things to offer, but there are a few things that are better done in person. Got to use the right tools for the job.
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