Technology Addictions: The Good, the Bad and the Unbelievable

Published by: Katie Speers

Have you ever been speaking with a friend only to realize they are not listening to you? You notice them immersed in their phones, laughing at the text message they have just received. There is no greater frustration than this. In today’s day in age people are constantly connected. Cell phones have internet, GPS systems, and even a person that can answer your questions (Siri)! From my first cell phone when I was thirteen years old to now the changes are unbelievable.

The number of people who own a cell phone today has grown significantly compared to ten years ago. It is shocking to see five year olds who know how to use cell phones and iPads better than some adults do. Is it really necessary to have a lap top, cell phone, tablet, and iPod? Ask any teen, young adult and even many older adults – and the answer you will receive is yes. These devices allow us to communicate with our friends and family instantly, search the web, access our bank accounts as well as thousands of other uses. How did this technological addiction begin? When did we feel the need to become constantly connected?

This weekend I was out for dinner with my friends. We were all sitting at the table on our smartphones. This got me thinking – what would we do without our phones? Often times conversations with friends revolve around a picture you saw on Instagram, something someone tweeted, or who is now in a relationship on Facebook. There have been times where I have attempted to disconnect myself – and this is not an easy task. I will admit, I am addicted to technology. Admitting you have an addiction is the first step, right?

Technology Addiction: Is it Really an Issue?

According to Barb Rogers of the Huffington Post the seven signs of addiction are:

  1. Questioning
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Blaming
  4. Secrets and lies
  5. Time and effort
  6. Guilt and shame
  7. Isolation

When you think of these seven signs in relation to technology it is most likely that one or two apply to you. Technology takes up tremendous amounts of time and effort in our lives.  Sura, a motivational speaker and writer for the Huffington Post, portrayed technology addictions well when she said, “We live in a world where wireless connection is taking precedence over human contact.” Think about the last contact you had with a person. Was it face to face? Or did you send an e-mail, text or Facebook message? It is rare that we ever pick up a phone to call someone. Why would we when it is so much easier to simply type a quick message.

The time consuming effects of technology carry over into many areas of our lives. Technology is one of our main sources of procrastination. As I sit here on my computer I am constantly flipping between Facebook and Twitter. It is amazing how much quicker we would accomplish things if these social media sites were not around to distract us. I cannot attest to what this is like for older generations, however for the student population media distractions can cause serious problems in terms of work ethic. With an increase in cutting edge technology it is becoming easier than ever to become distracted. Some individuals believe that people would find ways to distract themselves regardless of the availability of technology. I, however, believe that technology is a major contributing factor to the smaller amount of tasks we accomplish in a day.

The second sign of addiction that can be directly linked to technology addiction is isolation. We socially isolate ourselves by hiding behind our computer or video games. Many kids would rather sit inside playing video games than socialize with friends. Bruce Weinstein of the Huffington Post stated, “When we’re deeply immersed in our gadgets, we miss the chance to make new friendships, renew old ones, or simply say hello to a stranger.” Statistics show that people who use the internet frequently spend 70 minutes less daily interacting with family and friends. Communication skills are being affected by this technological isolation. I know I personally feel more comfortable communicating via e-mail with unfamiliar people rather than on the telephone or face to face. As I prepare to enter the workforce this is one of the negative effects technology has had on my social skills that is becoming more and more apparent.

VIDEO: Technology addictions can have withdrawal symptoms

Children are becoming addicted to iPads?

There is an increase of younger children owning cell phones, laptops, and tablets. I was 13 when I owned my first cell phone, 18 when my parents bought me my first lap top and 21 when I received my first tablet. Recently I was sitting in an airport and when I looked around I was shocked to see the number of young children with these gadgets. It seems that the age children have their first cellphone, laptop or some sort of tablet is getting younger and younger. I find myself wondering if this is necessary. What are the potential effects owning these gadgets at a young age could have on children?

iPad’s have millions of apps. There is an app for absolutely everything. Some apps may be educational, while others are not. Parents may allow their children to use technology when they need some quiet or they may use it to provide a source of education.

“We were sitting in a restaurant, trying to have a conversation, but her children, 4-year-old Willow and 7-year-old Luca, would not stop fighting. The arguments — over a fork, or who had more water in a glass — were unrelenting.Like a magician quieting a group of children by pulling a rabbit out of a hat, my sister reached into her purse and produced two shiny Apple iPads, handing one to each child. Suddenly, the two were quiet. Eerily so. They sat playing games and watching videos, and we continued with our conversation.”

Nick Bilton, New York Times

What happened to the days when children were given toys to keep them distracted and books to help educate them? Will iPads really make upcoming generations of children smarter?

I believe that this trend of using technology to educate our children is contributing to technology addictions. This is causing them to become dependent on technology from a young age. Children learn from imitation. Therefore, seeing their parents constantly on mobile devices makes them want to use these devices as well. Dr. Graham told the Telegraph, a news magazine based out of the UK, “Having a device can be useful in terms of rewards for good behaviours. But if you don’t get the balance right it can be dangerous.” There have been studies that found children may become hostile and irritable when parents take mobile device away from them. I think it is extremely important for parents to think twice before allowing their young children to have access to mobile devices.

Spending time with devices instead of interacting with people may hinder communication skills, researchers say.

How to Cure a Technology Addiction

Technology is becoming an important part of our society. It is inevitable that its uses will increase and that more and more people will have access to mobile devices. However, it is important to be able to take a break from technology and not feel anxious or stressed without your phone in your pocket.

Some tips to help curb you technology addiction:

  1. Leave you phone at home once in a while – when you are out for dinner with friends, or at the grocery store try leaving you phone behind.
  2. Practice not replying instantly to every message you receive – when you see that flashing red light, ignore it!
  3. Be mindful about what you are using technology for – if you are trying to procrastinate, think twice about going to that social media site.

It’s Not all Bad

I’ve discussed the many negative effects of technology. However, it’s important to note that not all technology is bad. There are many areas where technology can have extremely beneficial effects. It is being integrated into classrooms to make learning more interactive, its uses in healthcare have had astronomical positive effects and it makes communication around the world easier. As you have probably heard time and time again – everything in moderation. Generally you hear this phrase in relation to food, however I believe it is applicable to technology as well. Technology allows us to communicate across the world in a matter of seconds and it can save lives. However, the negative implications that can result from addiction to technology can have negative impacts on your social life and overall well-being.

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