Tech addiction? Really?

The first thing you need to know about scientific studies is that more than half of them are eventually debunked or improved on, according to Discover Magazine . That's how eggs can be good for you one week and poison the next.

The truth is, almost no research sample is large enough or takes into account enough variables to be definitive. There are exceptions where tens of thousands of people are studied over decades, but those massive research projects are rare. Sample groups are usually small and studies are narrow in focus, so sometimes it can take dozens of studies to establish an actual fact.

The best advice is to take new studies with a grain of salt - such as a recent study of 1,000 university students from 10 countries by the International Center for Media at the University of Maryland. This study, which made global headlines last week, discovered that a "clear majority" of students couldn't stay away from televisions, computers, phones, etc. for 24 hours. Furthermore, it reported that students who tried experienced withdrawal symptoms akin to an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

There's definitely something to this study, although consider this: in April of 2010, a study discovered that teen girls average 80 texts per day. In October 2010 another study suggested that teenage girls were sending an average of 4,050 texts per month, which works out to 135 a day. Which is it?

Is it possible that teens would increase their daily texting habits by 80 per cent in a sixth-month period? Yes. But it's just as likely that one or both numbers are off slightly or that the studies used different methodologies to reach their conclusions - one might have asked all teens and another one only talked to teens with cell phones.

I'm not saying these studies are wrong - I have no doubt that teens send a ridiculous number of texts every day and that the number is increasing. Similarly, I also believe that people do suffer from a kind of addiction to electronics and might have a hard time going a whole day without the things that have become an integral part of our daily routine. Seems kind of obvious when you think about it in those terms.

But my feeling is we're also overplaying this kind of thing. It's nice to sit back and say, "In my day, we used to play stickball and trade hockey cards," and pretend that was a far superior way to waste our time. Obviously there's a bit of an obesity epidemic going around and there were definitely some health benefits to being outside most of the time, even if was through sheer boredom - but kids back in those days wasted time reading comics, too, and were more likely to drink, smoke and go to work without attending college/university.

The methodology of this latest study is also important to understanding, especially the question of when was the study conducted. I couldn't find the actual study itself, but I can't imagine many university students would be willing to unplug on a weekday while they're going to class, on a weekend near a mid-term or exam, or while they're reading or researching for papers - which is pretty much always.

It also makes sense that the students missed social networking. It's not that unusual given the popularity of Facebook and the way people have shifted from emails to posts. You also have to keep in mind that many university students are away from friends and family, some for the first time ever. No doubt they've made new friends as well, or have a few different social groups to keep tabs on. Some use it to communicate with classmates. Given all the things that we use technology for, is it really so unnatural in that context that students would feel the need to keep in touch?

Plus, the study doesn't seem to take into effect multi-tasking. Maybe you can't go a full day without your iPod, but does that really mean anything if you're listening to music while running on a treadmill or riding your bike, or if you plug it into your car stereo for your commute?

Put an unplugged senior citizen on a desert island, and they might miss the evening news, bridge clubs, their daily phone calls to friends and family members, the crossword puzzle, the newspaper. Put an unplugged teen on a desert island and they'll miss their Xbox, their cell phone, their computer and their flat-screen television. Six of one, half a dozen of the other...

I'm a huge fan of unplugging and playing outside but the reality is that my life, job and friends are wired in so many ways. I'd rather be out playing every day instead of staring at various lighted rectangles, but I live in the real world.


Lenovo laptops break 24-hour mark

In recent years Lenovo has made a strong name for itself in the laptop market with affordable and powerful machines that are as nice to use as any of the top brands. They've also been quietly leading the way when it comes to longevity as well. Now Lenovo has a few ThinkPad models that can offer up to 24 hours of battery life with an optional battery pack - 15 hours.  That's almost double what their top competitors are offering right now.



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