A US academic claims that addiction to mobiles and the always-on/always available ethos is doing some of us real psychological damage. He wants us to consider "what the technology in our hands is doing to our heads". And he's not referring to RF radiation. By Martyn Warwick.
Dr Larry Rosen, a Professor of Psychology at California State University, has published a book entitled 'Disorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us.' He writes, "We're in the middle of a grand experiment here. We're at the early stages of understanding a society that carries the world in its pocket. It's good that you can always connect with someone but it also means you're there, 24 hours a day, every day and our brains have not developed to be constantly engaged like this."
The Prof is by no means a technophobe and believes that mobile is a boon - provided individuals are mentally strong enough to be able to use the devices as tools to enable communication and social interaction without becoming slaves to them.
Addiction to anything is bad for us and Larry Rosen adduces his own research and those of other prominent academics to demonstrate that some people are so intimately and constantly involved with wireless mobile that they begin to develop and display symptoms of personality disorders ranging from narcissism through sociopathy and on to states of debilitating anxiety.
According to Professor Rosen, mobile devices that allow us to move around whilst being in constant contact with work and friends produces a 'digital cocooning' effect, whereby we are more intimately involved with interactions in cyberspace that we are with physical contact.
This can cause some personality types to become socially withdrawn from the real world, preferring isolation in a cyber bunker that they build for themselves and then exist within.
That said, Rosen does accept that for some chronic introverts who find any sort of social circumstance and interaction very difficult, mobile comms, the Internet and social networking sites allow them to communicate much more meaningfully online, thus boosting their confidence.
Addiction to and over-reliance on mobile wireless devices can also result in anxiety attacks and a psychological need to try to be always available that can result in obsessive behaviour.
Professor Rosen cites examples such as constantly checking email inboxes or accessing Facebook, checking for new messages last thing at night and before getting out of bed in the morning. Some people even leave their handsets on the bedside table and wake several times in the night to read new messages as they come in.
He says mobiles can be responsible for an "undercurrent of anxiety" because we feel that if we are not constantly available and "don't check in we may be missing out on something". This "disconnectivity anxiety" can even result in stress and worry that have physical as well as psychological symptoms.
Over-reliance on mobile wireless devices can also foster narcissism which is evidenced by character traits such as pomposity, grandiosity, a craving for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Sound familiar? There are more than a few of them in telecoms.
Larry Rosen backs up these assertions by quoting from a Rutgers University study of 3,000 US Twitter users. It finds that tthere are two types of tweeters:'Meformers' and 'Informers'. It seems that the tweets of 80 per cent of those surveyed were "all about 'me'". The Professor writes, "Even people who would not behave like this in the real world feel comfortable presenting themselves that way online. Because they're able to do it behind a glass screen, it changes the way they relate to the world."
Larry Rosen concludes, "The more tasks we take on, the more our brain gets stressed and overloaded, and the worse we do at all of the tasks. There is no such thing as multi-tasking, only' task-switching' and it is not productive or healthy.
It seems more than two thousand years on we still we take cognisance of the Roman dramatist Terence who advised "Moderation in all things." It seems particularly appropriate to mobile comms addicts - mainly because there are just so many of them.
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