We’re all in trouble. According to a new piece in The Week, there’s been a marked rise in legitimate cases of Digital Attention Disorder – that is, an addiction to the internet and its infinite distractions. Some people have it so badly (no NeoGaf jokes, please), that they require professional treatment.
This is where it starts to get scary:
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“The vast majority of the American population is mildly addicted to technology, and our clinic treats only very serious cases,” [said Hilarie Cash, executive director of the reStart program for internet addiction and recovery]”Most of the people that come are young adult males around the ages of 18 to 30 who spend a lot of time on the internet. Their health is poor, their social relationships have turned to crap, they have no social confidence or real-world friends. They don’t date. They don’t work.”
And scarier, especially for gamers:
Internet and video game addiction starts young. Most young men are given computer or video games when they are five or six years old and therefore their childhood development is profoundly wired for these activities. It’s quite different to drug addicts and alcoholics who are usually exposed to drugs or alcohol closer to the age of 15. Internet addicts usually have 15 to 20 years of addiction on them due to starting younger.
To be fair, processes, unlike drugs with physiologically addicting properties (remember, from your “just say no” middle school classes) are not inherently addictive. But our brains do produce strong physiological responses to the things we experience – powerful pleasure responses, even, and game designers naturally want to create entertainment that players will enjoy and want to come back to. They want their games to be “addictive”, if not in the clinical sense.
That lends itself to a culture full of tech fanboy wars, rush hour trains packed with hundreds of strangers all staring at their personal rectangles of light, and some extreme addiction cases at the fringe.
So what does this mean? The end of the article suggests that kids are all but born into technology addiction today, and it’s not exactly like companies are going to start designing experiences that are deliberately crappy. Nor should they. But it is worth thinking about the impact of it in our lives, especially for those of us who get itchy at the thought of spending more than an hour offline.