Friday, July 13, 2012

iCrazy! Hyping hyper-connectivity

Going 'iCrazy'?  Newsweek this week* thinks we are, or at least some of us are.

Following on from the Atlantic's article asking if Facebook is making us lonely, Newsweek's Tony Dokoupil is asking 'iCrazy: Panic, Depression, Psychosis: Is the onslaught (of connectivity) making us crazy?' (To see a short, useful clip of the author, click here.)

Back in New Zealand, our television news ran a feature this week asking 'Are you addicted to your smart phone?' 

We know hyper-connectivity can be a problem, but what will happen as the phenomenon gets hyped by the media?  The inference is that once given a tool and once a heavy user, always a heavy user, or worse yet an 'addict.'  Will we look at heavy users as derelicts, weak people?  This could be a dangerous assumption as most of us turn to our smartphones during what Kristine Dery calls 'micro-boredoms,' waiting to board a plane, waiting for someone to arrive, or waiting for kids.  This is less an addiction than a natural response to boredom and/or opportunity to get things done.

And, while teens' use of screens may cause some concern, as Dokoupil points out, we used to have similar concerns about teens watching too much TV.  Thankfully no one seems (yet) to equate the Internet with the work of the devil, as was done to rock n roll.

The article does cite some worrying conclusions from research from 'over a dozen countries,' which may be legitimate cause for alarm for some users.

'The computer is like electronic cocaine, fueling cycles of mania followed by depressive stretches.' Peter Whybrow, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA

'It fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions' and 'It encourages--and even promotes--insanity,' according to Larry Rosen, who has written a book called, iDisorder.

'There's just something about the medium that's addictive.' Elias Aboujaoude, Stanford Medical School.

To be fair, the Newsweek article also cites research showing that 'Using our computers and smart phones is a form of brain exercise,' according to UCLA's Gary Small, who added, 'But too much tech time could have negative consequences.'

Doukopil answers his own rhetorical question: 'Does the Internet make us crazy?  Not the technology itself or the content, no.'

The author suggests 3 take aways from his research:

1. Be mindful of the amount of time spent on-line and/or with smartphones
2. Have face-to-face conversations whenever possible.
3. Be a good role model for kids (i.e., no phones at the dinner table).

*I bought a digital copy of Newsweek before it hit the newsstands for a fraction of the price I would normally pay for the print version.

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