Whether a tool is an asset or a hindrance often hinges on how the tool is used. A recent Baseline slideshow added to my perception that addition really is becoming an issue with many technology users today. For example, the slideshow pointed out that 65 percent of iPhone users can’t get along without their iPhone, while only one percent said they can’t get along without Facebook. The issue from my perspective is that it should be possible to get by without either of these technologies for some period of time—they’re simply tools and not needs essential for life. How does a technology become so important that 65 percent of its users would feel some sort of withdrawal symptom without it?
The slides went on and I’ll spare you the crudity of some of the questions the author asked of the respondents. However, as you read through the slides, it becomes apparent that the respondents would willingly give up contact with loved ones in order to maintain a grip on their iPhone. There was one statistic that really got to me though. If you have personal business in the bathroom, please complete it before you call me. I’m more than happy to wait.
That this phenomenon truly is an addiction is no secret. A recent article in the Telegraph talks about students having withdrawal symptoms akin to drugs when denied access to their technology. The LA Times reported that technology addiction is more extreme than addictions to chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol. Even Web MD has gotten into the act and provided articles about the symptoms of technology addiction. Psychology Today recently provided an article that helps explain the underlying metal and physiological basis of the addition. My experiences with addiction tell me that it won’t be long and Americans will start seeing the rise of centers devoted to helping people overcome their technology addictions. At some point, people will be forced to do without their technology in order to save their lives. In fact, I’m already seeing articles such as the on The Guardian that describe how others have beat their technology addictions.
I’m often asked why I’m not using Twitter and Facebook (amongst other social media products). I do have a LinkedIn account that I visit it once every week or so, but I don’t devote a lot of time to it. In fact, I don’t carry a cellphone either and I perform all of my work using a desktop system. For many people, the lack of technology on my person is a bit puzzling. After all, I write about technology and I’m obviously familiar with it at a significant level. However, for me, computers are a tool and will remain so. I use my computer to write books, create applications, perform research, and do other sorts of useful work. However, when I’m done for the day, I gratefully shut my system down, turn off my office light, and close the office door. I go out and do something different for a while in order to actually enjoy my life. I’ve also written about how the technology is turned off during vacations—I really do need time to unwind.
The topic of just how much technology useful will take a long time to work out. The whole idea of a personal computer isn’t that old and the older systems weren’t user friendly. People haven’t had time to build up any sort of knowledge level about them. I imagine that the conversation about how much technology one can enjoy without becoming addicted will be a long one, with many professionals taking part. In the meantime, take time to enjoy life. Shut the cellphone off for a while. Better yet, just leave it at home. You really don’t need to be connected to the thing 24 hours a day.
What is your experience with technology addiction? Let me know at [email protected].