Addiction: The Next Generation’s Dependency on Technology
Virginia Commonwealth University
University 112, Professor Abelson
The internet, social networking sites, our smartphones; they all distract us and take us away from daily life. Instead of paying attention in class, students are staring at their phones, and instead of talking with friends and family, people are beginning to prefer time spent on the internet. It is increasingly becoming an issue in our society that people are becoming addicted to their phones. This essay discusses the possibility that the future generation may rely heavily, or completely, on their smartphones, which act as a portal to the internet and social networking. The argument suggests that the current generation isn’t yet reliant, but the next generation may be due to evidence from recent experiments and research.
The distraction caused by the addictive qualities of technology is dangerous and is increasingly becoming an issue in our society. I see an attachment to technology everywhere I go. As a nanny, I see children who prefer to play on their tablet or watch television instead of going outside or drawing. They incessantly tell me they’re bored when they’re doing anything other than the preferred. As a college student, I see students who can’t manage to look up from their phone once during class and use the internet as a substitute to actual reading and learning. The other day, I watched a boy walking and texting. His intention was to walk up a staircase but instead, he ran his forehead into the other end of the staircase. For a second, he dropped to the floor in pain then got up, looked around to check for condescending stairs, and walked up the stairs. The most baffling part about this: the boy kept texting on his way up the stairs, walking so slowly to make sure he didn’t make the same mistake. Wouldn’t it have been easier for him to put his phone down for the one minute he needed to make it up the stairs?
With the rapid expansion and advances in technology I wonder what will become of the next generation. Will they use these inventions to benefit society or destroy it? In his essay titled The End of Solitude (2009), William Deresiewicz believes that when the television was released to the public, that generation cultivated boredom. And in more recent times, as the internet has taken over, this generation has cultivated loneliness. The next generation are those who have grown up with technology incorporated into their everyday lives. Because they are accustomed to having these inventions from birth, I believe they will not know independence from the technology. Just as a person is addicted to alcohol or drugs, this generation will become increasingly addicted to, and dependent on, their smartphones. Within the confines of this essay, ‘addiction’ is the compulsive engagement in a behavior that negatively effects one’s life; and the ‘smartphone’ is the access point to the internet and one’s social networking sites. If it is not already obvious in today’s society, technology has social, psychological, and cognitive effects on the masses, but I will only focus on the psychological effects.
Current studies and experiments have already shown this psychological issue surfacing around the world. Many researchers have developed internet and cellular phone addiction scales. In a national sample from South Korea, the researchers Kim, Y. Lee, J. Lee, Karin Nam, and Chung developed a set of 4 subdomains for indication of addiction to the smartphone: (1) disturbance of adaptive functions (use of the smartphone has affected relationships, grades, etc.), (2) virtual life orientation (preferring smartphone use over real life), (3) withdrawal (inability to properly function without the smartphone), and (4) tolerance (inability to stop or decrease usage). (2014)
In February, 2014, researchers Sinkkonen, Puhakka, and Meriläinen studied internet addiction among Finnish adolescents. They used a similar Addiction Scale by K. S. Young (1998) and broke their results into three parts according to the test scores: normal users (14.3%), mild over-users (61.5%), and moderate or serious over-users (24.2%). Although only 1.3% of those tested were classified as Internet users with serious problems, I still see reason to be concerned. We are still in the generation that Deresiewicz believes has cultivated loneliness, and we are still awaiting the trait that will be cultivated by the next generation. The lesser amount of tested adolescents caused concern for their internet usage, but if the next generation is tested several years from now, assuming society continues on the path of technological advancement, the results could be more heavily weighted on the third category, moderate or serious over-users. And years after them, the weight could lay in internet users with serious problems.
There are those in our society that are defying the many who seem already dependent on their phones. I know a man who is against everything public on the internet. He uses it to find information, look at the news, or prepare for the classes he will teach that day, but you will not find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even with a smartphone in his hand. He still uses a basic phone, and only uses it to call and text his close friends and family. I respect those individuals who are able to deny the addictive and appealing qualities of the technology of the 21st century, but I don’t believe they can direct such a large society of users to moderate their plug-in time. The majority of citizens in America are already swept up in the smartphone era and don’t seem to be slowing down.
Centering the world on an object that takes people away from that world is a horrifying paradox. Addiction to the internet has been associated with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, stress, negative self-perception and suicidal ideation (Bailin, Milanaik, & Adesman, 2014). I find many of these qualities in my peers, and even some in myself. But am I addicted to my smartphone and the connection it gives me? I don’t think I am simply because my usage is lesser than many around me, but maybe that’s because everyone who owns a smartphone, 47% of American teens (Bailin et al. 2012), is addicted, even if only mildly. Do you think you are addicted or could be in the future? We are so numb to the intensity of the use of our phones because everyone else is also participating. They are used to distract us, entertain us, or even keep us looking busy. This is a topic of little concern among normal citizens because these legitimate studies have not been widely publicized. When will it emerge as a problem that needs solving? When it has become too late? What if it is already too late? The potential of the next generation and their use of technology prompts fear of the unknown. My proposal is only one of many potentials.