Technology: are you addicted?

Crystal Hohenthaner

Crystal Hohenthaner

Since the industrial revolution people have revered and feared the advancement of technology. Writers such as Aldous Huxley and George Orwell warned us of the Brave New World to come and the year 1984.

Strangely, and frighteningly, many of their warnings have been, at least partially, realized. Many people in America today have begun to blindly integrate and ultimately become dependent upon technology. As a result many Americans today may have technology addictions.

As of yet there is no official psychological or psychiatric diagnosis of Internet, computer or technology addiction, but many experts all over the world and the World Wide Web are certain it exists.

Furthermore, there have been instances of a people being admitted to emergency recovery centers after suffering a breakdown as a result of their computer crashing – even in the state of South Dakota.

As with any other type of addiction or substantive abuse issue the big question is, “What is healthy, what is okay and what is destructive?”

In general, addictive agents are those persons or things on which we form an excessive dependency and ultimately separate us from other things that have been important to us.

Basically, if we aren’t careful we can become addicted to anything. So what things should we be afraid of?

Videos and Video Games

Some doctors claim that video and video-related devices, like computer screens, are able to create a rhythm that affects the synaptic responses in our brains and that this rhythm can be not only addictive, but destructive if we are overexposed to it.

If this is true, most most technilogical devices have the potential to be highly addictive. All of us probably know someone who is or has been addicted to some technology – especially video games.

Freshman construction management major, Mike Klinkhammer’s favorite video game is 007 Golden Eye. But recently he’s spent most of his game time playing Zelda for Nintendo 64.

“I play two to three hours a day, maybe more. Sometimes I don’t go to bed until 2 or 3 and I should go to bed. I have a 9 o’clock class,” Klinkhammer says.

Even though he misses some sleep from time to time, Klinkhammer says gaming doesn’t interfere with his life.

“I don’t put off other stuff to [play video games],” he says, “I get things done before I play. I use it like a reward for finishing my things.”

Klinkhammer says he doesn’t have a problem with gaming. But he does admit that he has been playing quite frequently over the last three weeks because of his new interest in Zelda.

“I’ll probably only play once or twice a week once I beat the game. I totally have grip on what’s going on, but I see how it could be a problem,” he says. “There are some guys on my floor that play Halo constantly.”

Klinkhammer says these men can be found on the third floor of Young at almost any hour talking to each other over headsets and sitting right up next to their TVs.

Meanwhile, in Binnewies, with a group of his friends, freshman and ag business major John Hanssen has been playing John Deere American Farmer (JDAF) a lot.

“One of my buddies got it last week and I’ve been kind of addicted to it [since then],” Hanssen says.

Like Klinkhammer, Hanssen says the specific game is what has him hooked.

“I would play XBox a couple of hours a week before, but I played [JDAF] about 15 hours last week,” Hanssen says with a laugh.

“One day I played it for like 6 hours,” Hanssen says, again laughing. “You kind of lose track of time.”

Hansen hopes to lose less time and taper off his use of the game over the next week.

“There’s too many things for me to do to spend that much time playing a video game,” Hanssen says, “Between class, work and socializing I don’t have more than 30 to 45 minutes a day to spend on something like video games.”

Like Klinkhammer, Hanssen also sees how gaming non-stop can be dangerous.

“Some people get caught up playing games all day and their grades go to crap or they isolate themselves,” he says.

Downloading Pornography

Isolation is a big issue with all types of addiction. Addiction causes, and is often born out of, antisocial behavior. If a behavior is hidden, chances are that behavior is or could become dangerous and unhealthy.

This is an important thing to consider if you use Internet porn.

Pornography in general may be dangerous for a person to be involved in, but porn within an interactive media that is instantly and constantly accessible – not to mention addictive in its own right – has the potential to have a destructive effect on individuals as well as society as a whole.

Frequent and concentrated use of pornography has been linked to infidelity, impotence in men and women and the sexual abuse of women and children.

Because the viewing of pornography is difficult to study long term due to its private nature, it has been difficult to determine how much of a role it has played in these problems.

The question often becomes, “Is a person abusive because they excessively use pornography or do people choose to use pornography because of their abusive nature?”

To this point it has been a rather unanswerable question. Many psychologists, pastors and marriage counselors who have dealt extensively with pornography users testify that pornography use at least contributes to many problems and possibly causes them.

The Internet simply facilitates this potential danger by making it easy to use pornography frequently and consistently.

There are support groups and counselors specifically devoted to this issue as well as many books on the topic.

The book Every Man’s Battle, by Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoker and Mike Yorkey, examines this problem and offers emotional, psychological and spiritual perspectives on the topic.

Instant Messenger

While men are more likely to be drawn and ultimately addicted to the more visual forms of technology (such as pornography and gaming), women are more susceptible to the more verbal and relational forms of technology (forms like instant and text messaging and cell phone use).

When asked how much time she spends on instant messengers (IM) Jenny Sampson, a sophomore biology major, says, “A day? Probably too much, close to three hours … well, probably more.”

In fact, Sampson leaves her messengers signed in all the time because she has DSL. But it doesn’t keep her from getting her work done.

“I usually have [IM] on when I’m doing something else, like homework or just checking my mail,” she says.

She’s actually thought she might be addicted many times.

“I’ve even thought about quitting, but I talk to my dad and other family members online and if I quit I would lose contact with them and other friends that I don’t get to see,” Sampson says.

She even messages friends in other countries. Sampson says she uses MSN mostly but also has AOL and Yahoo! IM programs and she uses them all, even when she has company.

“When we have people over to watch movies I sometimes bring my laptop down to the living room and message for the whole movie,” Sampson admits. “My friends have said, ‘Can’t you even stop for two hours?’ I guess I can’t.”

Sampson doesn’t think about IM when she’s away from home, and thinks it only interferes with her life slightly, and mostly with her sleep.

“Between 11 and 1 everyone’s online and I’ll stay up instead of going to bed,” she said. “I think to myself, ‘I should be sleeping.'”

Although Sampson thinks she has her habit under control she says if someone told her she had a problem with IM she would probably agree with them.

People with a penchant for IM aren’t the only ones who need to worry about addiction.

Cell Phones

Katy Ball, a sophomore consumer affairs major knows first-hand that cell phones can hook a person.

“I’m always on my cell phone. I use it mostly when in motion or doing something else,” Ball says, “Like on the way to class or I’m usually on the phone when I’m driving too.”

This sounds like a harmless practice, but people need to be aware that excessive use of technological communication devices can adversely affect one’s ablity to relate to others face to face.

Some people no longer feel like themselves unless they are communicating through a device. Although Ball hasn’t been this affected, she does admit that her cell phone has changed how she interacts with others.

“I was working out with my roommate the other day and we were both talking to people on our cell phones,” Ball says.

Ball’s friends even joke that she’ll develop a brain tumor from using her phone so much, but she doesn’t think she is unique or excessive about her cell phone use.

“I call others as much as they call me,” she says.

“When I’m on the phone walking across campus I don’t feel dumb,” Ball says, “cause I see so many people doing it.”

Ball does admit that there are some negative aspects to her attitude toward cell phone use.

“At my house, yeah, we’re lazy,” she says. “Sometimes, instead of going up- or downstairs my roommates will just call each other.”

“Sometimes I catch myself before I do it and I think, ‘Uh, just go upstairs,’ and sometimes, I’m like, ‘whatever’ and I just call,” Ball says.

Ball may be right that our society as whole is, “obsessed with technology,” but, she also admits she calls her cell phone her baby and that if she lost it she’d go crazy and .

Compulsion and Recovery

It’s fun and even funny what some people will do to have technology in their lives. Sometimes it’s even ridiculous, but is it dangerous? Is it an unhealthy compulsion or an addiction?

Whether you have an addiction or not we must at least allow for the possibility that it is a serious danger.

People have sought recovery treatments for everything from too much television and videos to surfing the net and using search engines nonstop. There is also controversy surrounding video lottery and downloading music and movies.

Technology addictions

Many students use Ipods and palm pilots constantly and text messaging incessantly. Some students can’t even get through class without sending a text message.

The most successful recovery programs are 12-step like Alcoholics Anonymous. These programs give members small manageable goals, a set of steps to accomplish and a support system.

Because the 12-step process emphasizes a need to rely on a higher power, Christian psychologists utilize the process and the majority of literature on recovery I found is related to Christianity.

If you don’t want to go to God, you can go to the campus Wellness Center. They both provide free services.

If you think you are addicted, or you’re afraid you’re addicted to anything, technological or otherwise, seek help.

There are lots of places you can go to for help in Brookings, Watertown, Sioux Falls and ironically, the World Wide Web.

All you have to do is look.