If you haven’t heard, a whole host of modern technologies have been named as points of addiction, we keep hearing about addictions to video games, online gaming, online porn, texting, facebook, myspace, etc. The Telegraph recently reported on a study which asked students to give up all modern technology for a day, and record their feelings about the experience. The results:
Researchers found nearly four in five students had significant mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation when forced to unplug from technology for an entire day.
The University of Maryland research described students’ thoughts in vivid detail, in which they admit to cravings, anxiety attacks and depression when forced to abstain from using media.
This brings up important questions about all addictions. We’re so often told that it’s the particular chemical qualities of drugs that create addiction, and result in these exact same feelings in drug addicts. But here, just as in gambling, shopping, and sex addiction, we have activities in which no chemicals are ingested – yet it looks and feels just like drug addiction. Studies like this really punch a hole in everything we think we know about drug addiction. When we accept the similarities, we realize that the chemical properties of drugs probably aren’t all that significant. Sure, brains may be altered, and I’m sure that we could show that with the proper research, but it’s ultimately a psychological attachment to an activity that we’re dealing with.
Another interesting point here – we have no evidence that these students’ attachment to technology is negative in any way. Social networking, email, and web surfing are all great tools that help people to live richer lives. While time can be wasted online, and there are of course other dangers, you’d still be hard pressed to say that daily use of such technology is a bad thing. Yet when we unplug, many go through the same type of withdrawal as they would for an activity that’s clearly harmful (drug use).
The lesson is that when you do anything repeatedly, intensely, and daily – then there will be some pain upon abstaining from the activity. It doesn’t matter if it’s a negative like smoking crack, or a positive like keeping in touch with friends online – you will absolutely be left feeling uncomfortable without that thing. It’s a fact of life which shows us that drug addiction isn’t all that odd after all, it’s not mysterious, and it’s not a disease.