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July 30, 2012

We are All Addicts… Internet Addicts that is

by Marina

In his article “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?” Tony Dokoupil, from the The Daily Beast, talks about effects of the Internet on people.

“The current incarnation of the Internet — portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive — may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.”

Internet “fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions,” adds Larry Rosen, a California psychologist who has researched the Net’s effect for decades. It “encourages—and even promotes—insanity.”

Jason Russell public meltdown

Jason Russell had a public meltdown after extensive use of the Internet.

Here is one example of such insane behavior.

Jason Russell, 33, a film director of Kony 2012, a short documentary film, had a very public meltdown when his film went viral in the beginning of March 2012.

He slept only two hours in the first four days, producing a swirl of bizarre Twitter updates and then was found running naked in public, ranting to himself, dropping F-bombs and shouting about the devil. He was eventually hospitalized for brief reactive psychosis brought on by extreme exhaustion, stress and dehydration.

Russell’s outburst — caught on camera and widely discussed online — came after intense scrutiny of his 30-minute film about brutal Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. The video garnered more than 84 million views worldwide — and was criticized by some for being factually inaccurate.

“Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard,” said wife Danica Russell in a statement, adding that Jason Russell wasn’t on drugs.

The worst thing is – doctors say that no-one is immune from the sort of public meltdown experienced by Jason Russell. It could occur in anybody, if the stress is severe enough.

Tony also provides some interesting stats in his article:

“In less than the span of a single childhood, Americans have merged with their machines, staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity including sleeping… Texting has become like blinking: the average person, regardless of age, sends or receives about 400 texts a month, four times the 2007 number. The average teen processes an astounding 3,700 texts a month, double the 2007 figure.”

So why can’t we resist Internet and Mobile Technology?

Probably because Internet is Very Addictive.

  • It’s Easily Accessible
    It’s everywhere. We can access Internet from home, school, work, airports, coffee shops. We also carry smartphones in our pockets.
  • It’s Easy to Use
    UX Specialists, like me, make sure of that.

    We are addicted to Simple
    If the desire for new, surprising, social information has not already made your brand addictive, consider the power of simple. The simpler something is to do, the more likely we are to do it, regardless of the rational costs or benefits.

    Consider life versus death.
    British health officials were shocked to discover that switching sleeping pills from a bottle to a blister pack led to a 20 percent decline in suicide rates. The “hassle” of individually extracting pills from blister pack led many to choose life over death. ~John X. Kenny

  • It’s Always Connected
    Especially with smartphones, that some people keep within an arm’s reach.
    Actually, sixty-six percent of smartphone owners sleep with their phone next to them and more than a third of users, including me, get online before getting out of bed!
  • It’s always full of New Stuff … All the things we, humans, can’t resist.

    We are addicted to New and Now
    Our brains give primacy to new information over old information, hence our nervousness when we hear our phones buzz when we are speeding down the highway.
    Whatever has just arrived, our brains are hard wired to crave, regardless of what we already now, or the risk in glancing at that screen.This phenomenon, known as “recency bias,” indicates our proclivity to treat new information as inherently better. ~John X. Kenny

  • It’s Full of Rewards

    We may appear to be choosing to use this technology, but in fact we are being dragged to it by the potential of short-term rewards. Every ping could be social, sexual, or professional opportunity, and we get a mini-reward, a squirt of dopamine, for answering the bell. “These rewards serve as jolts of energy that recharge the compulsion engine, much like the frisson a gambler receives as a new card hits the table,” MIT media scholar Judith Donath recently told Scientific American. “Cumulatively, the effect is potent and hard to resist.” ~ Tony Dokoupil

    Here is what’s happening inside drug addicts brains.

    “Persistent activation of the nucleus accumbens (reward centre of the brain) leads to the development of drug addiction, primarily due to persistent changes in the level of dopamine, which leads to an alteration in how people respond to otherwise rewarding stimuli. Put simply, after disruption of the dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens, people get less satisfied with things that aren’t their drugs of choice. Furthermore, people derive progressively more pleasure from the drug in question, exacerbating the effect.” ~ Dr. Paul, PhD in Neuroscience

    The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found “abnormal white matter” — essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function.

    A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to “structural abnormalities in gray matter,” namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of “atrophy.” ~Tony Dokoupil

  • Plus our Chronic Exposure to Internet – staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day! – fuels our addiction even further.
Mobile Stats in Canada, 2012

Canadian Mobile Usage on the Rise. ~techvibes.com

In his article “Mobile addiction: Why we cannot put down our devices and 7 ways brands can tap into the fix” John X. Kenny provides a lot of good reasons for our Internet and Mobile addiction, some of which I listed above. Also, here is a fun Infographic on mobile addiction or How is Facebook Addiction Affecting Our Minds? Infographic from Mashable.

We even start exhibiting similar patterns of behaviour to drug addicts:

  • A compulsion to seek the drug
    (
    A recent study found that it is harder to resist a new text message than a nicotine fix and one in three consumers would give up sex rather than give up their mobile phones)
  • An inability to control the amount of drug consumption
    (80% of vacationers bring along laptops or smartphones, so they can check in with work, while away) 
  • A negative emotional state when subjected to periods of withdrawal

There was the University of Maryland’s 2010 “Unplugged” experiment that asked 200 undergrads to forgo all Web and mobile technologies for a day and to keep a diary of their feelings. “I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” reported one student in the study. “Media is my drug,” wrote another.

At least two other schools haven’t even been able to get such an experiment off the ground for lack of participants. “Most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable, to be without their media links to the world,” the University of Maryland concluded.

“One of the early flags for addiction was spending more than 38 hours a week online. By that definition, we are all addicts now, many of us by Wednesday afternoon…” ~ Tony Dokoupil

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