I read this Newsweek article called “Is the Internet Making Us Crazy” last week. It’s about how people are becoming more addicted to the web, digital devices, and screens in general. I am one of these people.
I think I may spend around eleven hours each day looking at a screen. In the morning my eyes dart to my Blackberry, which doubles as my alarm clock, as soon as I wake up. At work I spend probably two-thirds of my time in front of a computer. Even when I’m talking to someone a computer screen lurks in the background tempting my gaze. During lunch I have a feast of two or three screens laid out before me: I read the paper on my iPad, monitor emails on my ever-present Blackberry, and sometimes there is a TV going in the background of whatever deli or restaurant I’m at. When I get home there is another two to three screen bonanza for my eyes to dance with until bed time. As I lie in bed falling asleep, my eyes getting heavier, the last thing I see is the blinking red LED indicator on my blackberry setting behind the horizon of my Kindle app. My dreams will have to do until morning.
According to Newsweek I’m not the only addict, and I can see the problems of worsening screen addiction. The article states that some countries now consider this mania a public health crisis. I certainly related to the feeling of checking my email being akin to the little “squirt of dopamine” gambling addicts get when being dealt a new hand. And I certainly realize how my attention span is shrinking, and how rude it is to check my phone when I’m supposed to be listening to the person sitting in front of me. Sorry, I can’t help it. I’m sick.
Of course, there are benefits to being wired in the digital age. I’m probably a million times more informed than the unplugged version of myself doing business just a few generations ago. I can also connect other people, and move information around almost as fast as the speed of light. If my great grandparents saw me interacting with my technological devices today they would think I had magic powers.
Magic as I may appear to my great grandparents if they were alive to see me today, I might also appear to be losing a part of my humanity. I bet conversations really just ain’t what they used to be. And despite being able to read all about you through your Facebook or LinkedIn profile, do I really know you to the depths that I might have if we were friends in the 1920s. Maybe, maybe not. Not that it matters, because I can’t stop. My name is John and I’m addicted to screens.