Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Digital Addiction

                         The difference between technology and slavery is that 
                             slaves are fully aware that they are not free – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Technology is accelerating to make everything easier. Everyone has Internet access, which eliminates geographic, social and hierarchical barriers. People are communicating more than ever before, in real time.  Technological advancement has many unforeseen effects; not just side effects, but major life-changing complications. (1)

Selfish Generation

Technology has transformed interpersonal relationships – more people are reaching more people through social media platforms. People are using their digital media voices to tell sharable stories and stimulate engagement.

Problems are arising in that many people are trying to respond to too many things at the same time, causing themselves stress and anxiety. Some are taking in a lot of information without really processing it. Everyone is creating information and becoming victims of information overload. This generates several problems that need to be addressed.

The people born between the 1980s and the early 2000s are the Internet generation, the group that spearheaded the use of social media in our everyday lives. They are the selfish generation.

Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (71%) think that many 18-to-29-year-olds (millennials) are basically selfish. They are self-absorbed and expect the world to come to them. A quick Google search of “millennials” results in lots of in-depth articles on this topic, calling them self-centered, and even narcissistic.

In 2013, Time Magazine had a story on Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation. (2)  50% of this group now describe themselves as political independents; 29 % are not affiliated with any religion.  They are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income. Less than 20% of them say that most people can be trusted.

In 2014, William Deresiewicz stepped up the criticism with his book, The Miseducation of the American Elite, which recounts his experiences teaching undergraduates at Yale. He finds young adults to be privileged, incurious, uninterested in exploring the larger questions about the meaning of life, and unwilling to take intellectual risks. They are comfortably bourgeois, caring little about the inner self and the soul. (3)

In his bestseller, The Road to Character, David Brooks is gentler but equally convinced that the young lack an interest in and a language for a discussion of character and virtue. They are, he believes, “morally inarticulate.” (4)

Selfies Self Ease
 
The word selfie is now in the dictionary. Have you taken a selfie? I have, sometimes, when no one is available to take our photo. A selfie-stick is available to hold the smart-phone a few feet away after a time-delayed click. It turns out that many, including older people and even the elderly, are now take selfies. Some take lots of selfies and post the best one on Facebook or Instagram, which is self-promoting and narcissistic. (5)

Down the Rabbit Hole

Larry Kilham's new book, The Digital Rabbit Hole, imagines today’s version of Lewis Carroll’s classic book, Alice in Wonderland. In the introduction, Alice peeps into a book her sister is reading and wonders about its utility. Why read a book when people see everything in color, with sound, on their smartphone? (6)

The white rabbit appears, takes his smartphone out of a vest pocket and is agitated about being too late for tea. Alice taps her screen, which shows a live video of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Alice then falls down the rabbit hole into Cyberland.

Larry Kilham says that this is no longer a fantasy. More and more people, and especially almost all of the younger generation, are falling down this digital rabbit hole into the cyberspace of technology filled with smartphones and smart devices. They no longer engage with each other as human beings. Rapidly advancing connectivity and accessibility have combined to create a new digital wonderland with addictive habits.

Says Larry Kilham, “For centuries, social groups, books, libraries, sings, movies and other media were where people found friends, gathered information and made discoveries. Today, the Internet is the rabbit hole into which many fall and cannot escape. The ever-present, ultra-convenient entry into this Cyberland is the smart-phone.”

There are two basic reasons why this trend is becoming pervasive and controlling:

  • The perpetual digital connection to everything provides an easy answer to any question – Kilham’s Knowosphere.
  • People tend to select convenience, answers that are good enough, satisfying emotional feedback, minimal action without distraction or needless social interaction.
 Larry Kilham’s book suggests solutions. It explores how creativity can be stimulated to learn and solve problems, while maintaining humanity. It is good reading, especially for parents and educators who worry about the time that young people spend with smartphones and video screens.

In further chapters of his book, Larry Kilham goes on to discuss other accelerating changes that are enveloping modern society – artificial intelligence, robotics, the all-consuming Internet. Where will the future lead as modern humans fall down this "rabbit hole"? What are the possibilities? Read the book!

Smartphone Use

In 2015, there were 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. While growth has been leveling off in developed markets, less mature markets continue to generate huge growth. Globally, by 2020, there will be 6.1 smartphone in circulation, which is about 70 % of the world’s population. (7)

In fact, total mobile subscriptions by 2020 will actually be about 9.2 billion, taking into account Internet-of-things and M2M services, mobile broadband and some basic remaining cellular phones. There will be 26 billion connected devices within 4-5 years.

Here are some key themes of a 2015 Pew Research Center report (8):

  • 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home; 15% have a limited number of options, other than their cell phone, for going online.
  • Smartphones are widely used for many important life activities – staying informed on breaking news, sharing news and views with family and friends, looking for schedules on public transit, using driving directions to navigate.
  • Mobile devices are deeply embedded in the daily lives of most young adults.
  • Smartphone usage often produces feelings of productivity and happiness. However, many users also feel distracted or frustrated after mobile use.
There’s a game that can be played in restaurants. Look around and count how many people are on their smartphones while sitting with others at the same table. You’ll notice couples, each one using their own smartphone. The pleasure of face-to-face dinner-table conversations appears to be obsolete. At home, it’s the parent who forbids texting, though sometimes it’s noticeable that even the parents have succumbed.

Limbic Resonance

An ever-growing number of people seem to prefer screen-mediated social interactions to face-to-face, or even voice-to-voice social interactions. Yet, there are strong correlations between depression and the amount of time spent online. 

Limbic resonance refers to the energetic exchange that happens between two people who are interacting in a caring and safe relationship. Their interaction stimulates the release of neurochemicals in the limbic region of the brain, necessary for full emotional and physical health. Without enough limbic resonance, most people function and feel less and less well. They become depressed and anxious.  

This problem is compounded by a whole childhood spent in front of screens and not enough spent face-to-face. The result is that a young brain becomes wired for digital media use and not suited for much needed face-to-face socializing. Lack of social skills leave a young person inadequately prepared for achieving satisfactory social connections in the real world. (9)  

Indeed, the inability to achieving emotional intimacy leads to social anxiety. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of such a person turning to digital media as an escape. In the virtual world, people can develop online friendship, romance and sexual outlets. The skills needed to be successful in the real world are not required.

Smartphones make people less focused. Constantly checking email and Twitter causes them to be less productive, and more disconnected from their real lives. Social media appears to promote self-absorption and narcissism.

Digital Addiction

For some people, interaction with technology verges on being excessive, and threatens to absorb their attention above all else. This digital addiction may even have a negative impact on their health. Unrestrained use of technological devices has at least some impact upon developmental, social, mental and physical health, with symptoms akin to other behavioral addictions. In recent decades, this has become recognized as a legitimate psychological disorder.

In recent years particular attention has been paid to how the over-use of technology may be affecting the younger generation, teens and even pre-teens. Many children are becoming increasingly reliant upon digital devices for education, social networking and entertainment. With young people spending less time interacting with their peers face to face and more time indoors than previous generations, the direct impact of digital devices on both physical and mental well being is fast becoming a big concern. (10)

Digital Detox

The ability to stay balanced and to create healthy relationships with digital devices, will determine the future. A new code of ethics must be developed to raise awareness about harmful digital habits, creating social etiquette, setting positive cultural norms, and sharing the importance of mindfulness.

“Technology has become the center of our social world, compelling us to always keep checking in to see what we’re missing,” says Larry Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us. This leads to the overuse of technology with “iDisorder” where frequent users show signs of everything from obsessive-compulsive disorder to attention deficit disorder. (11)

The solution isn’t powering down completely. As with any addiction-like behavior, the answer is to reset the brain for better control of compulsions to surf, text, or Tweet. 

Larry Rosen suggests 3 simple steps:

  • Set limits.  Having smartphones at ones fingertips acts as brain stimulus that screams, check me. Put your mind at ease with scheduled tech breaks.
  • Keep your brain from becoming overloaded by taking a 15-minute walk outside or flipping through a book with photographs of natural environments. This is attention-restoration, exposing yourself to nature helps restore your brain’s ability to focus by giving it a breather. 
  • Find your pleasure point. Your iPhone can act as a stimulus to your brain, meaning you get a feel-good dopamine rush from checking it, which increases your technology addiction. Retrain your brain by actively doing something else that makes you happy, instead of always reaching into your pocket. 
Let's Engage

Life in the digital age is sucking more people down the digital rabbit hole. Things need to change.

Please provide your own feedback, comments and suggestions. Share our discussion by responding to these questions directly via the blog. If you prefer, send me an email and I’ll insert your comments.


      1. Do you use a smartphone? I confess that I’m addicted. Are you?
      2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?
      3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
      4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
      5. Do you use or forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?
      6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?
      7. Do you have digital addiction? How are you controlling it?
      8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.

References

  1. Is Technology Making Our Lives Easier? http://goo.gl/zg3XxS
  2. Time – Millennials Are Selfish and Entitled: http://goo.gl/ZciL7m
  3. Deresiewicz Book – Miseducation of the American Elite: http://goo.gl/hVfAkW
  4. David Brooks Book – Road to Character: http://goo.gl/sFFJnX
  5. NY Times - The Self(ie) Generation: http://goo.gl/QijMZK
  6. Larry Kilham Book – Down the Digital Rabbit Hole: http://goo.gl/U43Qve
  7. 6.1B Smartphone Users Globally By 2020: http://goo.gl/vGu1Sp
  8. US Smartphone Use in 2015: http://goo.gl/lQQeCI
  9. Online Social Experience and Limbic Resonance: https://goo.gl/l62Ke1
  10. Digital addiction is the world’s next great health crisis: http://goo.gl/eKCVgj
  11. Yes, You Do Need A Digital Detox: http://goo.gl/cPcKWt
..ooOOoo..

Jim Pinto
Carlsbad, CA.
USA

18 comments:

  1. I thank the gods that I was born and reared before the brain-sucking smartphones came along. Not only do I not have such a device, I cannot become addicted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but are you addicted to other things? Books? Writing?

      I remember you once said, "A writer is someone who cannot not write". I suppose that's a kind of addiction. I confess I share that.

      :)
      Jim

      Delete
  2. 1. Do you use a smartphone? I confess that I’m addicted. Are you?

    Yes.

    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?

    Yes.

    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?

    Just Email. I don't have FaceBook

    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?

    Yes except for my wife.

    5. Do you use or forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?

    No. I use my iPad :)

    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?

    Yes.

    7. Do you have digital addiction? How are you controlling it?

    Yes. I'm not controlling it. I need to.


    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.

    One problem is I keep getting very interesting newsletters etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bob:

      I guess you and I are similar.

      I must confess to posting regularly on Facebook, sometimes on LinkedIn and Twitter. I suppose posting and checking this blog is part of the same "addiction". Hey, using your iPad counts as a "smart device".

      The idea of "control" is to cut back, and stop to do other good things.

      :)
      Jim

      Delete
  3. 1. Do you use a smartphone? I confess that I’m addicted. Are you?
    Yes and Yes

    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?
    Yes

    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
    Yes, and LinkedIn and CNN

    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
    Yes

    5. Do you forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?
    Does not apply.

    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?
    Yes, I'm very worried that young children will develop neck, back and posture problems from constantly looking down at their devices, plus ADD.

    7. Do you have digital addiction? How are you controlling it?
    By using smartphone to keep up with things.

    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.
    Having a smart watch is great for managing the volume of email I get by quickly seeing what is important. Ability to speak to the watch to issue commands is handy, especially while driving.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dan:

      I have an Apple Watch too, and that counts in my "addiction". You're still checking your email and other e-stuff.

      Speaking to your smart-device counts as part of the addiction.

      Delete
  4. 1. Do you use a smartphone? I confess that I’m addicted. Are you?
    Yes and Yes :(

    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?
    Unfortunately, Yes! Except to Bath!!

    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
    Yes. Mail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Flipboard, Feedly.

    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
    Yes and I am guilty of being impolite on several occasions.

    5. Do you use or forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?
    I am at the receiving end. But yes, this is something I have promised my wife and am improving.

    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?
    Absolutely. Not just in millennials, everywhere. My in-laws are getting addicted too! Probably its because of the novelty factor.

    7. Do you have digital addiction? How are you controlling it?
    I feel I am in a downward spiral of this addiction. However, my wife has been much better with this and she is pulling me out of the whirlpool.

    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.
    Its not been all bad. Digital has improved a lot of stuff, but everything in excess is bad and that needs to be controlled.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 1. Do you use a smartphone?
    No

    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?
    Not applicable

    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
    No

    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
    Yes

    5. Do you forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?
    Yes

    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?
    Yes

    7. Do you have digital addiction?
    No

    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.
    Perhaps to my regret, I'm not digitally addicted to anything.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, the Boomers were called the Me Generation. Most things I read about Millennials is true more generally.

    Check out a book--"The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell. It's all around us. I find a great many Millennials intelligent and delightful.

    It is not unusual for people in their 20s to have other focus than religion--at least not for most of 100 years in the US. But, to take an example, worship music through the 90s and until lately was quite shallow. A friend called them "7-Eleven" songs riffing off the quick grocery chain--7 words repeated 11 times. People, including many Millennials but also aging Boomers like me, are searching for more authenticity and transparency in religion--or at least in churches.

    As for smart phones, yes they can be as addicting as anything. However, mine have been invaluable in conducting my various businesses. It only takes the maturity or discipline to put them down. I see little old ladies glowing from the reflected light of their iPhones now ;-)

    My entire business is predicated on digital. I could never assign soccer referees to all the events I cover without digital. It's integrated into part of my life.

    On the other hand, daily I need to do some analog things--read a physical book, walk or run in the park, talk to people in person.

    Ancient peoples discovered this millennia ago--balance.

    Thanks Jim. I'm writing this from San Diego, but necessity is cutting the trip short. So no trips to Tijuana or Carlsbad as is my custom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comments and book suggestion, Gary.

      Happy to note your hands-on soccer-coach type activities. Digital is good, as an effective and supportive tool.

      Yes, the other non-digital activities like reading and running or walking in the park, help combat digital addiction.

      I'm working on it.

      :)
      Jim

      Delete
  7. This is true and might become worse: "When a whole childhood spent in front of screens, young brains are not really prepared to achieve satisfactory social connections...."

    It will even be more intense, when time playing games is spent under a 3D hood, so you don´t even have to acknowledge anymore, that you are in fact sitting in some small room in a suburb (or slum) family home...

    The smile of Zuckerberg, when he walked into that room full of journalists wearing 3D glasses said it all. Add to that the intelligent thoughts of Bruce Schneier, who says that with the Internet of Things "we are building a world sized robot and do not even recognize it" :
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceschneier/2016/02/02/the-internet-of-things-will-be-the-worlds-biggest-robot/#678f2e763162

    You might tend to believe that the matrix and such fantasies, in the end at least partially, might not be too far from several possible futures.

    At least, I suppose, that we will face, as well as the people using legal-highs/meth-variants, as mass phenomenon a form of online addiction - people staying in their virtual world as far as possible and neglecting the real world and whatever "natural" kind of living and being.

    Online/play addictions will arise - same as drugging: the flight from reality into fantasy and dreams of luck, power and glory.... 3D, near to real life.

    There will be the Zuckerbergs without Glasses and the mass with their Glasses on, absorbed. It´s not religion as a drug for the masses, it´s media. And the quality of that drug is widely enhanced by 3D in the very near future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robert :

      Thanks for the excellent points you made. As technology advances like 3D-glasses emerge, people will get further away from the old styles of personal discussion and chatting. It should be interesting to see how this trend develops, and what backlash will emerge.

      Delete
  8. 1. Do you use a smartphone? I confess that I’m addicted. Are you?
    I use smartphone. Aditced. No.

    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?
    no. not always when I leave home, or office, I take it with me.

    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
    constantly? no. when I get back to the phone, or when I pick it up to go somewhere, I do.

    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
    yes

    5. Do you use or forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?
    yes

    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?
    yes

    7. Do you have digital addiction? How are you controlling it?
    I check emails every 1-2 days. I check regular mail every week. Am I adicted? I think not. It is simpler to check.

    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.
    Addiction and human contacts are decreasing. I also see this as a difficult issue that needs some resolution.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great topic Jim, but you used a term I don't recognize: "family dinner". You are not condoning cannibalism, are you?

    As for the rest, I have an iPhone & Apple watch, and I am addicted. I don't have Facebook. That would just make it worse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Darryl:

      Hmmmm.... I'm "old" - so I hadn't recognized that young people don't get together for dinner any more. Millennials eat whatever, whenever convenient? Enlighten me...

      I too have an iPhone and Apple Watch and use Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn quite often. I'm working on these addictions... :)

      Delete
  10. 1. Do you use a smartphone? I confess that I’m addicted. Are you? YES - ABOUT EQUAL TO LANDLINE FOR TELEPHONE USE. AND NO - I HOPE I AM NOT ADDICTED
    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you? YES - JUST IN CASE OF NEED OR EMERGENCY
    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly? NO...MAYBE A COUPLE OF TIMES A DAY. I REFUSE TO USE FACEBOOK AND TWITTER.
    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite? ABSOLUTELY AND TOTALLY
    5. Do you forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner? ABSOLUTELY. IT IS RUINING FAMILY LIFE
    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere? YES - ESPECIALLY WITH FEMALES
    7. Do you have digital addiction? How are you controlling it? I SURE HOPE NOT. TO ME IT IS A TOOL, NOTHING MORE
    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions. I AGREE WITH YOU, WE ARE RAISING A GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CONDUCT AN INTERPERSONAL CONVERSATION WITH ANOTHER HUMAN. THE MAIN ISSUE WITH TEXTING IS THAT THERE ARE NO TONES OR INFLECTION IN THE WORDS AND I HAVE SEEN MY WIFE AND HER DAUGHTER IN TEARS DUE TO MISUNDERSTANDING - TOTAL LACK OF MEANINGFUL COMMUNICATION.

    MAYBE AT MY AGE OF 77 I AM BIASED BUT I STILL BELIEVE THERE IS A PLACE FOR SMARATPHONES AND THERE ARE DEFINITELYARE PLACES WHERE THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 1. Do you use a smartphone?
    No, Just a flip phone. The company wants me to have one, but not bad enough to pay for it :)

    I confess that I’m addicted. Are you?
    No,

    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?
    No

    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
    No, I check in the morning, and several times during the day. I have text turn off unless they pay for the message.

    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
    Yes, unless a true emergency. (on-call events, but excuse yourself and take it away from the group)

    5. Do you forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?
    Yes

    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?
    Yes

    7. Do you have digital addiction?
    No

    How are you controlling it?
    no need to

    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.
    I work in an engineering office, but when I get home to my farm we are lucky to one bar a lot of the time so I am not as tempted as others may be.

    ReplyDelete
  12. 1. Do you use a smartphone? Yes
    I confess that I’m addicted. Are you? No

    2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you? Yes

    3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
    No. I check email periodically, but I don’t do FB!

    4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
    It really depends on the setting & the circumstances. It can be impolite but not always.

    5. Do you forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner? Yes

    6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere? Yes

    7. Do you have digital addiction? No. How are you controlling it? N/A

    8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.

    Digital addiction is no different than any other addiction. The first step in recovery is to recognize that you have a problem. There’s a big difference, however, between using a smartphone and being obsessed with it. If you’re going to have a smartphone you should use it and get your money’s worth out of it, especially if it’s used in your professional life.

    Most of the people I consider addicted to digital, however, are not using their devices for any other reason beyond self-indulgence. IMO, that is the primary/dominant type of usage that sucks people into addictive behavior — basically, people with waaaay too much time on their hands! (In other words, I really don’t give a damn about where you had lunch today or what you ate!)

    ReplyDelete