New technology and new addictions

Immersed as we all are in the technological era, a whole set of high-end equipment has consolidated its presence as indispensable part of our lives in just a few years, but at what cost? Communication is easier now than ever before. However, experts warn that the inappropriate and compulsive use of advancing technology has introduced new addictive disorders…and anyone can become addicted.

A research from New Ofcom has recently shown the extent to which the UK has become a nation addicted to smartphones. 27% of adults and almost half of teenagers (47%) are now the owners of a smartphone, which includes devices such as Blackberrys, iPhones and Android phones. They make more calls and send more texts than regular mobile users, with teenagers especially ditching more traditional activities like reading books or watching TV in favour of their devices.

The rapid growth in the use of technology is also changing the way people, particularly teenagers, act in social situations and interact with others. According to Ofcom’s research, two thirds of teens admit to use their smartphones while socialising and a third of them during mealtimes, a high figure compared to over half (51%) of adults admitting to use their smartphones in social situations.

Juan Manuel Romero, founder of Addiciones Digitales (Digital Addictions) – Spanish organisation aimed at preventing technology addictions by running conferences and seminars in schools, business companies and different institutions – explains that the most repeated pattern of addiction is to mobile phones and social networking websites.

People cannot longer pass without carrying their mobile phones in their hands, not even to go to sleep. As for social networks, these are used excessively with the excuse that social networking is one of the most popular ways for teens and young adults to communicate, forgetting other traditional ways such as face-to-face communication.

These two separate addictions can cause multiple problems when joining.

The compulsive mobile phone usage and Internet connectivity, facilitated by any portable device nowadays, mean that many people spend their days logging in through social networking websites. It is not rare to see people crossing the road and instead of looking at cars they are sending messages on Twitter or Facebook.

2012_01_30_New technology and new addictions
Image: Expert in digital addictions Juan Manuel Romero.

Ofcom’s research also found that the line between work and social time is becoming increasingly blurred.

Students who spend too much time in front of the computer do not study, but they are being entertained, wasting time and therefore, they fail in exams. It is recommended to turn the computer and mobile off while studying. They must be able to concentrate without distractions or interruptions,” Romero says.

In order to prevent the addiction to sites such as Facebook and Twitter, experts recommend that Internet users, particularly teenagers, should reduce the number of social networking sites they are register on. Adults must be reminded to keep a balance between personal and professional life.

Adults cannot spend the working day hooked on technology and go back home and still continue using the computer. There might be some exceptions, for example, a busy day in the office when there is not enough time to get the work done and it needs to be finished at home. But this should be an exceptional situation. Otherwise, there is a risk that they put their family life aside and couple relationships can also suffer, even break down.”

The main risks of technology addiction are its consequences. If an addict requires medical care to overcome the addiction, first thing to do is ban him or her from using technology and nowadays there are just a few jobs, except cleaning up the streets and little else, which can be successfully carried out without using technology.

The difference between a sensible and compulsive use of technology is mainly determined by one’s own attitude, but betting technology addiction is now harder than ever before due to its presence at home as well as at the workplace. The dependence might make addicts feel anxious when they are away from their computers or mobile phones, so a well understanding and a non-threatening use of technology is the key to prevent the addiction, and a challenge for those to whom technology is more than an indispensable part of their lives.


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