Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is it Time to Step Away From the Computer (and phone)?

I have been known to bemoan the fact that I am not on the computer all day at work. While I use a computer often (cash register and our in-store book search system), I am not able to check news happenings, my email, facebook, etc. at work. While I can check email and texts on my breaks (and yes, I admit that I love my iphone), I don't have access to full internet use at work. Sometimes this has made me feel unconnected to others or to what's going on.

But overall? I think this is a good thing.

Newsweek seems to agree with me.

In the July 16 cover story, Tony Dokoupil talks about how our increased internet use (including emails, texts, social media, news, video gaming, etc.) is changing our brains, our moods and how we interact with the world.

He describes how people are experiencing more depression, anxiety, higher stress, obsessive and compulsive behaviors, suicidal thinking, and addictive behaviors and brain imaging, often, studies are increasingly showing, as a result of higher internet use.

The article bombards (and I use the word bombards in a good way) the reader with studies and facts:

     -A third of smartphone users go online before getting out of bed.

     -People have been treated for "reactive psychosis" as a result of near constant internet use.

     -People are substituting internet use for visiting with people in person, exercise and sleep.

     -In one study, one week of moderate internet use (five hours during the week) was enough to change the brains (prefrontal cortex - determined by brain scan) of people who were rare internet users.

     -Brains of internet addicts look like brains of drug and alcohol addicts.

     -When the new version is released in 2013, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) will include Internet Addiction Disorder as a diagnosis.

The article describes how China, Korea, and Taiwan are seeing problematic internet use as a national health crisis. One couple in Korea neglected their own infant to death while nurturing a virtual infant online. Another man bludgeoned his mother to death when she suggested he get offline for a while.

Extreme examples? Maybe. And yet...

Studies seem to show that increased internet use, which has increased exponentially since the advent of smart phones and social media, is affecting us in deleterious ways. This article provides some disturbing trends, corroborated by experts.

Sherry Turkle, MIT psychologist and author of ALONE TOGETHER*, talks about her concern about how our interactions with other people are changing because of our increasing need to be digitally connected. If nursing mothers text while nursing, she posits, and experience tension while texting, the infant will experience tension as well, and the infant is "vulnerable to interpreting that tension as coming from within the relationship with the mother." The ramifications of this are scary.

I mentioned above that I've felt unconnected when I'm at work because I do not have full internet access while I'm on the clock. And while our work computers don't allow us to cruise the internet freely, remaining off the internet is at least partly my own decision. I don't carry my phone with me (like some co-workers) and check it every few minutes (like some co-workers). So while this not checking sometimes means that I feel a little out of the loop, it is my choice.

How digitally connected are you? And how does it affect your mood? Your interpersonal interactions? Your life?

*see my blog post about this most excellent book here:

And yes, the irony does not escape me, that you are reading about the dangers of increased internet use on a blog. You can comment on the blog right here on this page. You can also send us email: 2of3Rs(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Thanks for stopping by!

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