Technology addiction cases are on the rise
By Julia Redemske
When the Internet goes down, a cell phone is lost or the cable is blitzed out, most people can continue on with their day without problems. But as technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, new troubling studies are showing that dependence on the Internet and other forms of technology is becoming a form of addiction.
According to a study on Internet use among college students conducted by Keith J. Anderson, a staff psychologist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “approximately 10 percent of Internet-using students have used the Internet to the degree that their usage meets the criteria that are parallel to those of other forms of dependence.” In other words, one out of every ten college students might show the signs of addiction to the Internet.
And last year, a Stanford University School of Medicine study found that one in eight Americans shows at least one sign of “problematic Internet use.”
“Technology addiction . . . it’s there,” said Director of Technology Services Joseph Provenza. “Real or perceived, it’s there and people are addicted.”
So what does it mean to be addicted to technology? The general consensus on campus is that people who check their MySpace, Facebook and E-mail more often than they eat, or who watch TV instead of writing a school paper because they just have to finish the episode, probably have a technology addiction.
“A couple of my friends will check Facebook five times a day,”said sophomore business and education major, Jeremiah Boyle. “That’s when I think it becomes an obsession.”
“[Technology] seems to be taking on that quality of basic necessity,” Provenza said. Moreover, when does the addiction become a problem?
“[Technology addiction] is a problem when it interferes with your life,” said senior graphic design major, Marta Berkolayko. And many agree that when the activity begins to have a negative impact on one’s life, there is an issue to be addressed.
Maressa H. Orzack, a clinical psychologist who is a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty and founded the Computer Addiction Service, says on her Web site that some signs of addictive behaviors include: “Having a sense of well-being or euphoria while at the computer. Inability to stop the activity. Craving more and more time on the computer. Neglect of family and friends. Feeling empty, depressed, irritable when not at the computer. Lying to employers and family about activities. [And] problems with school or job.”
Like other addictions, withdrawal can set in when the source of the obsession is withheld from those with the addiction. “When I see a student who has not been able to get on the Internet for a period of some days,” Provenza said, “it’s an anxiety level that would be akin to that when I was in college if we didn’t have food.”
Some students and staff said because technology has flooded our everyday lifestyle, and the Internet, with all of its alluring possibilities, is in our home and at our fingertips, addictive behavior is inevitable.
The same thing goes for video games. “Some people can’t stop if they’re so into a game,” said senior graphic design major, Michael Gurley. “They’ll stay up all night playing it and it’s really not doing anything productive.”
Technology addiction does not mean Internet addiction, although that is a major component. Senior graphic design major, Marta Berkolayko, laughed and said, “Hi, my name is Marta and I’m addicted to TV.”
Berkolayko uses the time watching TV to relax. “I don’t watch things that make me think. This is the whole point of it,” she said. “I want to see things that make me go into a zombie zone.”
Although the availability of technology may influence how much we use it, some students and staff said that a person’s self discipline, addictive tendencies and arrangement of priorities are a defining factor when it comes down to actually developing a problem.
“Kids that are going to study are going to study,” said sophomore elementary education major, Dina Converso. “And the kids that are not going to study will divert their attention easier to [the Internet].”
Some agree that age may also play a role in the development of technology addiction. “I think for this age group it is a major problem because, just like college life, it’s the first time that kids have a lot of freedom, because they get out of high school and now it’s not the set limitations they had in high school,” Boyle said.
According to Orzack, technology addiction can be treated like any other type of addiction. “One of the most effective methods to deal with all types of problems is Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which teaches the patient to identify the problem, to solve the problem and to learn coping skills to prevent relapse.”