Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The impossible task of being a lonely teenager

The Snob, a Russian online magazine, has a story about impact of social/digital loneliness on teenagers (in Russian). Katerina Murashova, MD, asked 68 teenagers, 31 boys and 37 girls aged between 12 and 18, to spend 8 hours without talking to their friends or using electronic devices, phones, PCs, TVs, etc. Instead, the participants were allowed to engage in various solitary activities: board games, writing, arts and crafts, playing a musical instrument, walking, etc. Each participant could drop out of the experiment, should his or her experience become psychologically difficult.

Out of 68 participants, only 3 (2 boys and 1 girl) managed to last the required 8 hours. Another 7 survived 5 hours of loneliness, while the rest dropped out of the experiment within the first 1-3 hours. Every participant reported high levels of stress, including anxiety attacks.

This study reminds me of the famous Marshmallow Experiment conducted at Stanford in 1972. It looks like today's teenagers have the same problem as American 4-year-olds forty years ago - they have trouble distracting themselves from a highly desired object or experience.

tags: psychology, interaction

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