With the prices of the internet and technology gadgets falling and the competition increasing the gadgets are becoming more and more accessible to everyone. With this access to gadgets also comes the access to things like social networking sites such as Facebook, chat apps such as WhatsApp, Mxit, mobile games etc. All these require and even demand our every minute attention: the phones, tablets, PCs even the apps and programs themselves are constantly ringing, vibrating, popping up, ringing and flashing; cajoling and enticing us to attend to them. This has given rise to a new affliction: Tech Addiction.
Almost every affliction known to modern medicine has been at first dismissed by us as an ailment unique to western cultures. Smallpox, Influenza, H1N1, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, AIDS etc they were all “Western” until it became clear that these were as much a problem to them as they were/are to us. Psychiatric conditions such as our addiction to technology are yet to be universally acknowledged in Zimbabwe or much of Africa for that matter. This may have something to do with their insidious nature of being non fatal.
Just because tech addiction does not kill you does not mean it is less a problem. How many times do you update your status on any of the many social networking sites? How many times do you stop whatever you are doing at work or at home to attend to a pop up, message tone, vibrating phone or to reply to a message even if it is clear that it is not urgent? Often times people stop abruptly mid sentence when conversing with someone to attend to their phone or tablet. Some even impolitely stop the person whom they are conversing with mid sentence usually by holding up their hands in a “halt!” sign. Phrases like “Hold a minute I have to take this” have become common place.
Like with all forms of addiction tech addiction takes a toll on your social relationships. Researches have shown couples who suffer from it are likely to drift further apart as they connect via conversion less and less with each one of them being drawn into their own world. Partners spend less time together or are often interrupted during quality time periods which can put a strain on their relationship. People, much like gadgets are social animals and can hardly bear being ignored. Families members may risk becoming strangers to one another as each is wrapped in their own cocoon of Facebook and WhatsApp friends.
Some of the symptoms of tech addiction are:
- Excessive and abnormal use of technology for example waking up during the night to update your Facebook status or to chat on WhatsApp or Mxit.
- Loss of previous interest. For example you no longer watch that Saturday Premier/Championship League game that you and your friends used to enjoy.
- For Children loss of interest in school work/ performance.
- You find yourself often interrupting people you are holding conversation with just so you can attend to your phone or gadget.
- Difficulty abstaining from your phone or gadget or app.
- Feelings of guilt over spending too much time on your phone, gadget or app.
- Dreaming about the app, Social Networking sites etc.
Here are some of the things you might do to get out of addiction and some ways to manage your addiction.
- If you find that you are obsessively hooked to technology the first step, like with all addiction, is to admit you have a problem and actively seek to manage the way you use the technology.
- If you somehow keep falling off the wagon then it is time to seek help from others, provided they are not addicts themselves.
- If you are not sure you are addicted or not try changing your phone or gadget to a basic phone or keeping track of the number of times you access/use the gadget.
- Actively manage your child’s use of technology especially if you think they are overindulging in it.
- Switch of your phone/gadget during quality time.
It is indeed ironic that those apps and social networking inventions that were borne out of our desire to connect with friends and family when there are not within our physical reach can have the opposite effect to those within our reach. Now it is time you asked yourself who is really in charge you or your gadget.