East End Tech: Confessions of a Technology Addict

Technology Addict
The hard life of a technology addict, Graphic: Oliver Peterson (source: CGehlen Flickr)

My name is Matt and I’m a tech-aholic. I am completely powerless and cannot stop using my smartphone. Whether it’s the middle of the night or attending my son’s soccer practice, I constantly struggle with my desperate need to connect, to browse, to text.

I wasn’t born this way. In fact, I’m so old that when I grew up, we had one TV in our entire home. It had 13 channels and rabbit ears. There wasn’t even a computer; we used typewriters and this gooey substance called White-Out. Smartphones were for Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

Now, I fear that my compulsive weakness is spreading to my family. My beloved wife owns two phones, two tablets and a laptop. She tries to text on multiple devices at the same time and it’s pretty funny. I’ve observed this behavior and it’s highly disturbing. My kids are also getting in on the action. My daughters complete their homework assignments online and speak in strange acronyms like YOLO and IDK. WTF??

The worst part? Whenever I’m at the park, my son refuses to run around unless I chase him while pretending to be the Ape from Temple Run.

This cycle of addiction is hopeless!! What am I to do??

OK, back to reality. Much of that “confession” was actually true, except for the part about the despair. I’m Dr. Gadget, so I need to embrace this stuff at all times. All kidding aside, there is a growing phenomenon across our great land. It’s called technology overload, and scientists insist it’s real.

How real is it? Well, hospitals have started offering in-patient treatment to help people break their phone addictions. Concerned corporations have adopted “leave your phone at home” Fridays. Madonna was banned from a movie theater chain because she couldn’t stop texting during a film screening.

There are even online support groups for computer addiction, which is highly ironic since you have to log in… using your computer.

Personally, I’m on the fence. On one hand, I’m all for getting back to nature and sparking increased human contact. But at this rate, it wouldn’t surprise me if class action lawsuits arose just like with the tobacco industry—demanding millions from tech companies for all our pain and suffering on smartphones.

Maybe that’s why Apple is hoarding $500 billion in cash.

The good news: there are some easy steps we can take to combat our technology addictions. At home, we can pledge to read more books and get more exercise. Stepping away from your house or apartment creates a natural break from all the gadgets inside. Amazon has offered to help; they put a timer on Kindle tablets, which automatically shuts them down whenever kids spend too much time playing games or watching movies. I’ve found that small, simple steps like these improve my listening skills and get me more engaged with my family.

How about at the office? Not so easy. I force myself to turn off email for one hour a day, no matter how busy I am. Problem is, when I log back on, I have 400 emails to sift through, which just pushes the pile down the road. I also refrain from bringing my phone to most group meetings, where I’ll be tempted and distracted. But then I show up and everyone else is checking email, so why should I be the only one abstaining?

Fact is, we’ve become so reliant on technology in the workplace that we struggle to perform without it. I sometimes wonder whether all the increased productivity really translates into better ideas, more efficient workers and safer products.

What do you think?

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