Addicted to technology

"If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger." There is a sense of truth to this rather comical take by Frank Lloyd Wright on the ever growing realm of modern technology. In this day and age, it is impossible to avoid technology. It surrounds us completely; from our laptops and blackberries to our facebook and twitter accounts, all of us to some extent or another have become increasingly dependent on it. The reliance of some on technology, however, has reached to a point of what some may call addiction. This obsession reflects a paradigm shift in man's evolution as we move further into the digital age.

One may ask what does the term "addicted to technology" actually entails. John O'Neill, director of addictions services for the Menninger Clinic in Houston comment thatpeople who can't sit through a movie without checking theircell phones or make it through dinner without peeking at their Blackberries are potential addicts. He listed further danger signs "You become irritable when you can't use it. The Internet goes down and you lose your mind. You start to hide your use." As such, technological addiction can be described as an uncontrollable urge to use technology.

Addiction to technology is a fairly recent phenomenon that has taken its roots in our increasingly digital society. Mobile phones, text messages and sites like facebook have become the platform for many to network with other people. The reason for this shift towards technology to fulfil man's innate need to connect with others still remains unclear though many experts believe that it provides individuals the ability to seamlessly connect with hundreds of people simultaneously. For instance, blah blah while commenting on the issue said "[The mobile phone] is more like a comfort blanket. It's important for people to feel that they are constantly in touch. There's a need to be needed,". There is a prestige associated with having the most friends on MySpace or hundreds of followers on your personal blog which implies that the self esteem people gather from their popularity on the internet acts as substitute for personal interactions in real life. Similar is the case with cell phones as getting a call is a boost as it makes you feel good to be wanted. This proliferation in the amount of cell phone users is also due to the simplicity and accessibility hence making it more accessible. A direct consequence of this accessibility is that it has reduced face to face contact between family and friends. Nowadays a visit is complimentary to a short message on cell phone or a social networking site such as facebook. This results in people losing touch with what happens in the real world and becoming progressively dependant on technology to fulfil their need to connect.

One major consequence of this technological boom is that the line between work and private life is much more blurred. Email, cell phones and pagers provide a 24 hour link between the employers and the employees. This constant contact and workload can adversely affect the decision making capabilities of an average individual. The break at home is marred by official phone calls and "checking the email" routine. These technological gadgets curtail the time spent with family. To keep thing running in an orderly manner we need to keep our priorities straight. Even if an employee pushes the boundaries, do discuss with the employee in a constructive way how we can do things better without being overloaded. Similarly an employer should have respect for his staffs' personal time and should not contact about job related issues after office hours.

Technological addiction among young people is having a disruptive effect on their education. Most school and colleges have banned the use of cell phones during class but this rule is easily overlooked by most of the student body. A quick message to a friend, usually regarding a mundane topic, is much more important to the technological addict students then the lecture at hand. Many the cell phone and social networking site users have developed this as a habit and many find themselves sending and posting messages almost without any self realisation. This disrupts lesson frequently. Cell phone and internet messaging has also given rise to many spelling and grammatical mistakes to short abbreviations of almost anything. This "Internet Lingo" is often found on many papers submitted by such technological addict students. The habit of reading short scripts and text on the internet and cell phone has decreased the concentration of the individual student. These students cannot be motivated to read for longer time hence, the amount of students reading books is decreasing at an alarming rate. Another outcome of messaging on phones and social networking sites is a decrease in the ability of making a conversation. The use of ineffective, social networking websites like Twitter make it more and more difficult for us to communicate the way we once talking. This increasing use of messaging has decreased the communication skill of an average user. Many people are unable to retort verbally to an argument. They feel anxiety and pressure while doing so in a verbal conversation. On the other hand the same individuals will have no trouble settling the debate in a short messaging medium.

Computer Gaming can be considered another "technological drug". Computer Gaming has increased exponentially over the past two decades and has become a multibillion dollar industry. This sector of technology is very addictive as it combines the users' fantasy and imagination and gives them a whole new dimension. Another aspect of the Computer Gaming is online gaming where people interact with one another through their game characters. The Online Gaming is very popular as it again provides a social interaction of people. People addict to online gaming frequently play more than 50 hours a week. This excessive playing has led the gaming addicts to neglect their health, family and social obligations. A case was reported in South Korea where a couple starved their three months old child to death while playing an online game. It was reported that they played about 12 hours in a single stretch and fed their baby once a day. Another case, also from South Korea, is a man died after playing an online computer game for more than 50 hours. According to authorities he had not slept at all, took very few breaks during the marathon session and ate almost nothing. The cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion. Such technological addiction has proved deleterious and fatal in many occasions.

I find it good to know that more people are becoming aware of technological addiction and the threat it poses. Steps are being taken to restrain the use to a minimal. Treatment is now offered to technological addicts at a London hospital. The founder Dr Richard Graham describes the withdrawal system of such addicts as becoming "chronically agitated and irritable". The treatment Dr Graham has designed is in three stages. It begins with psychotherapy designed to address the patient's issues with face-to-face relationships. The next stage is to unpick their relationship with technology and encourage them to switch it off, and finally they are encouraged to take part in both physical exercise and activities with family and friends.

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