Obsessive addiction with new media is turning many youth into ‘Cyborgs’
A new term ‘Cyborg’ has gained currency. It stands for those who are ‘continuously connected’ and seem to consider it normal. These people are the ones whose lives have merged seamlessly with their machines, be they computers, iPads, iPhones, mobiles, smartphones and what not. They keep staring at their screens for at least eight hours a day, perhaps more time than they sleep.
These multi-taskers on several machines were yet to acquire their iPhones five years ago when President Obama was running for his first term in White House. Now even the smartphones outnumber the old models in the United States, and more than a third of users get online before getting out of bed.
An average individual, regardless of his age, sends or receives about 400 texts a month, four times the number he did in 2007. The average teenager processes 3,700 texts a month. This is double the 2007 figure. The Internet is not just another delivery system. “It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed,” writes Tony Dokoupil in a recent issue of the Newsweek.
Internet Addition Disorders
Internet Addiction Disorder is clearly emerging as the newest among the ailments. China, Taiwan and Korea have recently accepted the diagnosis and began treating problematic Web use as a grave national health crisis. Such is the crisis that Korean government is thinking of a late night Internet shutdown for young people.
Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine, found that one in eight of his middle-aged landlines users showed an unhealthy attachment to the Internet.
University of Maryland carried out an experiment and asked 200 undergrads to remain out of touch with their Web and mobile technologies for a day and note their experiments in a diary. One student wrote: “I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening.” Another reported: “Media is my drug”. Two other such universities also tried to conduct such experiments but were unable to dissuade any of their students from remaining away from the Internet for a day.
Book titled iDisorders
First book on Internet related obsessions and disorders titled iDisorders by author Larry Rosen has just hit the bookshelves in the US detailing results of a survey of 700 compulsive addicts, some of whom checking the text messages in their mobiles, other looking at their Facebook accounts and yet other logging on to email IDs every 15 minutes.
Researchers in China who have mapped brains of Web addicts says they look like brains of drug addicts and alcoholics with ‘abnormal white matter'”essentially extra nerve cells built for speed”in those areas charged with attention, control and executive function.
Studies suggest Web-users often displace sleep, exercises and face-to-face exchanges, all of which can upset even the chirpiest soul. Heavy media use and texting has been found to have correlation to stress, depression and suicidal thinking.
New Media Distracts Students
On another level technology is causing distraction from serious academics among students. Kaiser Family Foundation’s study provides some insight. According to its conclusions, today, the 8-18-year olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainments media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).
Over the past five years, time spent reading books remained steady at 25 minutes a day, but time with magazines and newspapers dropped from 14 minutes to 9 for magazines and 6 minutes to 3 minutes for newspapers. The proportion of young people who read a newspaper in a typical day dropped from 42% in 1999 to 23% in 2009. In 1960, students at four-colleges in the US studied 24 hours per week. Today, the average is 14 hours per week, 42% less.
(Source: Extracts from Newsweek issue dt. July 16, 2012 and Thomas L. Friedman’s That Used to be US blended together)