“Digital amnesia”: the inability to remember information without looking at your phone. Technology addiction is dulling our memories. You are familiar with the destructive nature of alcoholism, drug addiction, and eating addictions.
We all, however, need to be aware of an addiction that is rapidly gaining force in today’s technological society. This is technology addiction. It can derail your productivity.
Technology addiction is not recognized in the DSM-5, a manual that’s used to diagnose psychiatric issues. However, its symptoms parallel all the criteria for addiction in that directory. In simple terms, this means that very often individuals are using technology the same way that drugs or alcohol have been used for years.
“Do you sleep with your phone?” I recently heard a speaker as this question. She noticed our puzzled expressions as we processed her question and wanted a better definition of “sleeping with our phone”.
She said, “This means next to you, across the room from you or in your bed. Think of this like a beer – addiction means having the next to you, across the room from you or in your bed.”
Technology Addiction: Hooked on the Machine
For some people technology is a portal to an alternative reality. When they have nothing to do, many young people turn to their technology. They’re primarily communicating through their technology, so they don’t have face-to-face interaction.
We’re seeing it causing problems for individuals around the world: diminished social skills or dangerous behaviors such was looking at a phone while walking across a street.
Businesses managers report they’re having a very difficult time hiring young people out of college who can think creatively and who can stay with a problem for an extended period of time because they don’t have the frustration tolerance.
Also, these young people frequently have a difficult time working in groups because they’re used to working virtually. They have difficulty when they come into a meeting and must interact with people, read what’s going on with them, and communicate effectively on a face-to-face basis.
The Face of Addiction
I remember a family of 4 I saw while eating outdoors at a restaurant in Florida. There was a mother and two adorable kids. The father sat there the entire time looking at his phone sending messages and writing emails.
I was positioned so that I could see the mother’s face. She would glance up at him with a wistful look that said, “Why are you doing this? Why not pay attention to your meal and us?” But she never said a word. She just sat there, stared at him, stared at the kids, and stared at the phone.
This is an example of technological addiction. More studies are coming out showing that this is becoming problematic both for adults and for young people. Many students complain that they can’t get their parents’ attention because their parents are on their devices all the time. There have been a number of injuries, abuse cases, and neglect cases caused by parents who have been paying attention to the technology rather than to the children.
Virtual Relationships Don’t Develop Social Skills
In many instances, individuals are not developing the social cues or the social awareness they need because they aren’t engaging in direct, face-to-face communication. As a result, they’re losing the ability to read facial cues and body language.
Distractibility is another big issue. People are very limited in their ability to pay attention to much of anything. It’s very disturbing to notice how much effort some people must make to pay attention for extended periods of time. They haven’t developed the skills and the ability to do that.
Also we’re seeing that often people are not taking the time to develop relationships. If you watch young people at bus stops in the morning, they’re all on their own devices, and nobody is interacting. The term for that is “Being Alone Together.”
I challenge you to put away your phone, keep it off the table when you eat, and don’t make calls while you drive. Try at 24 hour period of digital silence. I’ll bet you will find lots to do.
Explore technology addiction in greater depth in my new book, How to Be a Successful LNC: Tips for Your Business. This is one of my brand new hot off the presses 2018 books in the very popular Creating a Successful LNC Practice series. Get your copies here.