Like an alcoholic with a drink, I am powerless over my technology use. When I binge on technology I am intoxicated. I disconnect from the real world and get drunk on mindless surfing, video binges and compulsively checking my iPhone. When I try to stop, I cannot. The more I apply self-will, the more I try to discipline myself, the more I use technology.
Am I addicted to technology?
The short answer: yes, without a doubt. Even though I have recognized the negative consequences of my tech use, I haven’t stopped. That explanation is enough for me, but allow me to explain.
What is addiction?
The term “addiction” is commonly used for any problem behavior. But when I say “addiction,” I mean something more. For me, addiction is a mental obsession, a physical craving, and a spiritual misalignment. For example, when I’m separated from the screens I use to access the tech-world, I will obsess about how I might reconnect. Without my iPhone, I experience phantom vibrations, a sense of physical disconnection, and I physically crave information. Lastly, when separated from technology, I don’t feel whole. Without a constant stream of information (like an alcoholic without a stash of booze), I feel more than disconnected: I experience a deep and pervasive feeling of loneliness, separateness, fragmentation, and disintegration. This is a spiritual void.
But let’s put addiction in objective terms.
A simple definition of addiction from Wikipedia is: “impaired control over substances/behavior, preoccupation with substance/behavior, continued use despite consequences, and denial.”
- Impaired control? I can’t stop using technology (Netflix, iPhone, Facebook, etc) when I choose to. Check.
- Preoccupation? See “mental obsession.” Check.
- Continued use despite consequences? I know that intoxicated tech use leads to isolation, depression and pain, but I don’t stop. Check.
- Denial? Denied I had a problem, until I almost failed out grad school due to video binges. Check.
Mark D Griffiths‘ five criteria of internet addiction are:
- Salience: Using the Internet dominates the person’s life, feelings and behaviour.
- Mood modification: The person experiences changes in mood (e.g. a ‘buzz’) when using the Internet.
- Tolerance: Increasing amounts of Internet use are needed to achieve the same effects on mood.
- Withdrawal symptoms: If the person stops using the Internet, they experience unpleasant feelings or physical effects.
- Relapse: The addict tends to relapse into earlier patterns of behaviour, even after years of abstinence or control.
What’s your addiction? Are you powerless over technology? Has a part of your life become unmanageable because of it?