Jul. 24, 2012
I was at home last week when my Dad came into the kitchen and placed his new issue of Newsweek on the counter. This is a normal occurrence. Here we are a normal family in our normal home, living in our normal little town, but sitting on the kitchen counter was something that struck me as being far from normal. It was disturbing, really.
Right below the iconic Newsweek banner was the image of a young woman, eyes tightly shut, hands clenched on either side of her head and mouth shown screaming in frustration. The title read, iCrazy: Panic, Depression, Psychosis – How Connection Addiction is Rewiring our Brains. The only thing I could think of was, “I know exactly how she feels.” It could have been me on that cover, or any number of twenty-somethings I know. I’m old enough to remember living day-to-day life without a cell phone glued to my hand. I’ve noticed an alarming difference in how my brain has been affected and essentially rewired by current technology.
In elementary school, I could rattle off any friend’s or relative’s home phone number by heart. I didn’t even seem to struggle when the area code had changed. My spelling, although somewhat limited by age, was almost always right on target (Top contender in my 5th grade spelling bee, thank you very much). And I was completely capable of paying attention when I needed to. (Or chose to, depending on who you ask.)
Now I, along with most of America, rely heavily on a smartphone to memorize phone numbers. In all honesty I can’t recite more than a handful of phone numbers from memory. Spellcheck routinely keeps me from embarrassing mistakes. My attention span has been greatly reduced and I am constantly feeling pressure to be doing 12 things at once. If I’m not, then I’m thinking about it. I’m hardly able to drive to work (a nearly hour-long trek) without being bored.
The Newsweek article points out we’re on the losing end of this connection addiction battle. Psychologists have identified new disorders that explain the toll technology can take. There’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD), “Ringxiety”/Phantom Vibration Disorder, Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) and Nomophobia, just to name a few. The Sleep Foundation actually did a test just last year on “Technology Use and Sleep”. Pretty soon David after dentist won’t be the only one who can’t tell the difference between the connected world and “real life”.
This might all seem like bad news, but it’s entirely possible to slow increasing rate of the technology epidemic. The treatment is necessarily low-tech, and it calls for healthy doses of quality face time. According to an article written by Doctor Larry D. Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us, even a simple “tech break” at dinner can help by silencing phones, placing them upside down and actually talking to one another. “The upside down silent phone is a stimulus that says, ‘Don’t worry – you can check me soon.’ This stops the brain from obsessing about every little e-communication.”So log out, sign off, shut down and go see what the world really does have to offer. You may not see changes overnight, but it will certainly make for a more appealing cover photo.
Editor’s Note: Kelsey is an intern with Villing & Company and will be graduating from Indiana University South Bend in August with a degree in Mass Communications, concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Business.
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