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Is technology taking us away from having normal face-to-face conversations with people? Are our social lives being affected by constantly having our heads buried in our phones and other electronic devices? Can we develop health problems because we are addicted to our phones? In this paper, I am going to try to persuade people, especially teens, to put down those phones and devices even for a short period of time and be attentive to the world around us. Technology is ruining us socially. Technology can cause health problems and can become an addiction. I have some solutions on how to limit our time on our phones and devices.
First of let me describe what addiction is all about. Addiction is the chronic use of a substance or compulsive activity in which to stimulate the brain no matter what the consequences. I believe that according to James Williams, “Technology is hijacking our brains” (The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2017). Internet and social media addiction can be a serious problem. Research indicates that Internet addiction may be linked to changes in brain chemistry associated with the rewards of Internet use. Just like with other addictions, technology addiction presents the problem of habituation or tolerance. Tolerance means that an addict grows accustomed to the “high” received from technology use and therefore must do something more extreme to achieve the same high the next time that technology is used (Rosen, 2015). Addiction is the dependence on something that you eventually cannot control. An addicted person is forever trying to reach a higher level than when they first started using whatever they started with. I personally know many individuals that are addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, and the Internet.
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The ubiquitous use of smartphones in modern society has created a new psychological malady: nomophobia, the anxiety or fear experienced when one is unable to access technology. The term nomophobia was originally coined from a 2010 study by YouGov, a United Kingdom research organization that wanted to take a look at anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. Dr. Chuck Howard, a licensed psychologist says, “Nomophobia can be a symptom of a possible addiction” (Rahim, 2016). I like the term “nomophobia”, it makes the addiction to phones sound like any other phobia, that could cause serious health problems. I have seen many people that could not function mentally if they could not find their phone or had access to the Internet. Just last night at my job at Pathway to Recovery, I had to reprimand a resident for being on his phone during an A. A. meeting. He was very upset that I called him out on it, and it lead to a somewhat heated conflict.
When technology does everything it is easy to become dependent on it. Scientists are beginning to wonder if our tech addiction is giving us a leg up, or putting obstacles in our path. In any addiction, there is a chemical in the brain called dopamine which triggers the pleasure center of your brain. When people hear their phone’s or other devices buzzing or beeping it triggers that chemical and it makes them excited and pumped up just like a drug (Kaminski, 2015). I am a recovering addict and know exactly, from experience the effect that alcohol and other chemicals have on our brain’s. Extreme degrees of Internet and electronic use are increasingly recognized as Internet addiction, a disorder with symptoms that are compared to those of substance use and gambling disorders. Internet addiction in youth vary from less than one percent to 38%, and some may be more vulnerable than others, including those experiencing other psychological symptoms such as depression, ADHD symptoms, or hostility (Shapiro & Margolin, 2013). I see people all the time, that cannot quit checking their cell phones every few minutes. A few months ago, some friends of mine had a get together to watch a Pay-per-View fight in which the host paid about one hundred dollars for us to see it. There were about ten adults and four adolescents in attendance. As we were watching the fight about 80% of my friends were not even paying attention to the television. They were on their phones, texting or taking photos of the people at the party and posting them on social media. They basically missed most of the fight, which is one reason that I am doing my paper on this topic. What are we teaching our children? They see us all wrapped up in our phones and nothing else in the world matters.
A growing backlash against social media and technology is on the verge of full boil. Bill Gates made headlines by declaring that his children were not allowed smartphones until the age of fourteen and he banned them during dinner (Wilhelm, 2017). This is Bill Gates, the Co-Founder of Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest software company, realizing the dangers that could result from too much time spent on the Internet. Teens’ use of social-media amplifies the notion that our current generation of youth are uncontrollably hooked on these new technologies and unable to control their lives. Addiction initially was referred to drugs and alcohol but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the American Psychiatric Association differentiates chemical dependence as substance disorders and behavioral compulsions as impulse-control disorders. In 1995, psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg coined the term internet addiction disorder (Boyd, 2014). Therefore, with what I have covered to this point, I truly believe that using our phones and other devices, and being able to not be connected to the Internet, is an addiction.
I am going to explain some of the health hazards that come with be addicted to our devices and technology. Americans are becoming increasingly addicted to their cell phones. Talking on one’s cell phone while driving is a dangerous practice that should be banned. Several recent studies have claimed to have found a link between the frequent use of cellular telephones and cancer. Studies have shown that motorists who talk on their cell phones while driving—even those that use “hand-free devices, display a noticeably slower reaction time and are more prone to get into accidents. In 2006, psychologists from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City published a report that drivers who talked on their phones showed approximately the same level of impairment as drivers who operated a car while drunk (Cellular Telephones, 2017). How many times have you noticed someone driving while on their phone and not paying attention to the road? I know in my 58 years that I have seen a lot of crazy and dangerous driving by people texting or talking on their phones while driving.
Sleep patterns are often totally disrupted by technology addiction. Technology addicts use their devices or the Internet 40 to 80 hours per week, or they might go on “net binges” in which a single session can last up to 20 hours or more. Given that there are only 168 hours in a week, using technology this much will nearly always result in sleep disruption. Being sleep deprived can impact academic or work performance and even weaken one’s immune system (Rosen, 2015). Adolescents’ use of the computer, including the use of computer-mediated communication, has been related to disruptions in sleep. A study of computer use in relation to adolescents’ sleep quality, perceived health, and tiredness upon awakening found that for young adolescent boys, intensive computer use was associated with less sleep and more irregular sleep, which in turn related to poorer perceived health (Shapiro, 2013). One of the reasons that I wanted to do my essay on this topic and how it is related to health, is a technology game that came out in 2016. The game was called Pokemon Go, and there were many incidents that involved people getting hurt or getting killed because their attention was more focused on “catching” various Pokemons. People were walking out in traffic, walking into walls, and there was even an incident where two men were killed when they accidently walked off a cliff even when there were warning signs posted. I believe that being addicted to your phones and devices can have a major impact on your health. I can say that I have indulged a few times at playing Internet games over a long period of time. The result was just like was stated above, I was tired and cranky the next day and it was hard for me to keep focused while at work and school. Internet and social media addiction does play a part in how our health is affected.
We live in a technological world in which we are always communicating and yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection. We turn away from each other and toward our phones. But to empathize, to grow, to love and be loved, to take the measure of ourselves or of another, to fully understand and engage with the world around us, we must be in conversation. Our passion for technology tempts us away from face-to-face conversation, but conversation is a cornerstone for empathy as well as for democracy; it sustains the best in education and in business it is good for the bottom line. Face-to-face conversation is the most human-and-humanizing-thing we do. Fully present to one another, we learn and listen. It’s where we experience the joy of being heard, of being understood. But these days we find our way around conversation. We hide from each other as we’re constantly connected to each other (Turkle, 2015).
For us as a society, less contact and interaction-real interaction-would seem to lead to less tolerance and understanding of difference, as well as more envy and antagonism. As has been in evidence recently, social media actually increases divisions by amplifying echo effects and allowing us to live in cognitive bubbles. We have evolved as social creatures, and our ability to cooperate is one of the big factors in our success. When interaction becomes a strange and unfamiliar thing, then we will have changed who and what we are as a species. Less interaction, even casual interaction, means one can live in a tribal bubble-and we know where that leads. We’re a social species- we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone (Byrne, 2017). I believe that without communicating face-to-face we are missing out on getting to know people personally. I know for myself that I would rather sit in front of another person and talk to them so that I can see their expressions and mannerisms and how they act when others are around.
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How can the youth of our generation hold their own in a conversation, I mean an actual face-to-face conversation, when all they do is bury their heads in their phones? How are they going to handle face-to-face conflicts when all they know how to do is squabble through social media on Facebook? We as parents need to teach them how to put down their phones for a while and actually learn some interpersonal skills. I am not saying that I am against technology or cell phones, but I believe that our youth are missing out on the joy of personal relationships by constantly being on their devices. I just want to add a personal experience that I had about school and on-line classes. When I first started college, I enrolled in two on-line and two face-to-face classes. Guess which one’s I passed and which ones I failed? Yes, you probably know that answer. I failed the on-line classes. I am the type of person that needs to have a real interaction with a person to teach me what I need to learn. I am sure that there are many, many others that feel this same way.
Another aspect that I want to examine is how technology affects social change. Does technology really cause positive social change? Consider poverty in the United States. Its rate decreased steadily for decades until around 1970. Around 1970, the declined stopped. Since then, the poverty rate has held steady at a stubborn 12 to 13 percent- embarrassingly high for the world’s richest country- only to rise since the 2007 recession. Over the past four decades, real incomes for poor and middle-class households stagnated. During the same four decades, the United States experienced an explosion of new technologies. Therefore, during a golden age of innovation in the world’s most technologically advanced country, there has been no dent in our rate of poverty. All our amazing digital technologies, widely disseminated, didn’t alleviate our most glaring social ill (Toyama, 2015). We think that technology is the answer to all our problems, today. But as you can see it cannot solve our poverty or many other problems we have in our society.
So what can we do? Consider this scenario: Have you ever stayed up late grappling with a tough problem? You go to sleep and the next morning you’re groggy. You hop in the shower, and miraculously- somewhere between the shampoo and conditioner- you find the answer. Is it magic water? Yes and no. Showers are a great way to wake you up, but they also force you to put down your phone. And when you’re finally free from the phone’s feedback loop, your mind can wander- often to find the answer you were looking for. “Technology is very addictive and very distracting,” says Dr. David Greenfield, “When you’re using it, [it’s keeping you from] doing something else.” And whether that “something else” is homework, hang time with your friends, or anything in-between, it’s important to realize that your phone could be getting in the way- even more than it’s helping you out.
Take Back Your Life (Kaminski, 2015). Coping strategies are a good way to start. Resist the urge to constantly check your phone. Try limiting your number of social media networks and consider joining more in-person professional networking groups or sports clubs. Set aside some time to leave your phone alone, such as dinner, with friends or going to sleep. If it becomes an addiction and begins to strain your relationships, consider asking others around you what they think. Be open to a sort of intervention where friends and family may candidly tell you their thoughts. No need to go cold-turkey, just take some small steps at a time to disconnect and enjoy the world around you, without looking through a smartphone screen. And lastly if can’t do it alone, then seek professional help (Rahim, 2016). I am in a 12-step program and a few of our slogans are, “Easy does it”, or “One day at a time, even one minute at a time if that is what it takes for you”. Another good one is, “Slow and steady wins the race”. Addiction is no joke, it takes time and effort on an individual’s part to overcome the obstacles that are keeping him from getting better.
As far as the solution for using your phones while driving. Brenda Wiederhold states that, “So what are solutions to these seemingly hard-wired responses? One that’s in the works is eye-tracking hardware and software- cameras backed by algorithms that can tell whether your eyes are on the road. Other possible solutions include smartphone/vehicle hardware integration, a smartphone app combined with a car insurance incentive, or integration of no-text admonitions in driving school curriculum. Meanwhile we urge our readers to keep your eyes on the road-and your thumbs off the phone (Wiederhold, 2016). I do not believe that anything in this world is so important that we cannot at least take the few seconds or minutes to pull over on the side of the road or into a parking lot, to make or answer our phones. The lives of others and of yourself is in your hands, so put away the cell phones, until you can safely answer them.
In this paper, I have presented my research and opinions on the effects that modern technology may have on us as a society, our health, and how it could lead to an addiction. I have given you examples from my personal life about experiences that I have had. As I have said earlier in this paper, I am an addict in recovery and have knowledge of what addiction can do to a person’s life. It can affect you socially, because at a certain point in your addiction, you just want to be alone. Also, people do not want to be around you because of your problem. Addiction can affect your health. Most addicts are depressed and lonely and try to fill that void in their life with something that will take that pain away. Addicts will try harder and stronger things that could make them very ill or even cause death. But there is a way out, if the person has the willingness to ask for help and wants to lead a productive life. Not all is lost, just because we are addicted to something. There are all kinds of organizations out there, for all kinds of different addictions. If you think you have a problem, seek help.
I know there are many people out there that believe technology is a wonderful thing to have, and I am not against technology. I use it every day at school, at work and at home. What I am trying to persuade my audience, is that we need to take a little break now and then, put down our mobile devices and phones and enjoy the world around us. I am especially worried about the youth of our country. All they see every day is people too busy with their eyes glued to their devices. What are we teaching our children? Are we teaching them how to have a decent interpersonal conversation with another human being or are we teaching them it is alright to ignore people and use our phones, instead? Are we teaching them to have a successful one-on-one interview, so they can get a great paying job? No, I believe that we need to teach them how to communicate with people on an individual basis. We need to put down our devices and lead as an example to our children. We need to take them to parks and have picnics. We need to travel to places they have never seen. We need to show them that there is a world out there and that it is amazing. I grew up in an era that did not have all the technology that we have today. I might be a little bias, but I believe that I have turned out good. I used to run in the park, play outside until the street lights came on. I used to go on vacations with my parents and see things that I have never seen, before. I believe with all my heart, that we need to do these things with our children, before we have a generation of adults that only care about who is texting them now. Adults that are too busy to pay attention to what is really going on in this world.
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