The High-Tech Addiction
I already wrote about food addiction and addiction to certain feelings. I am discovering new addictions as technology advances to “serve” me, and I became aware that I am increasingly losing control over my life.
There is a Zen story that illuminates this point:
A peasant walks down the road holding a rope in his hand. At the other end of the rope a cow is tied.
“Why do you allow the cow to control you?” a passer by asks him.
“It is not controlling me. I am in control,” he replies.
” If you are in control, why don’t you let go of the rope than ?” he is challenged.
What you control also controls you. It is never a one-way street.
The same is true of new technological advances. They make our lives more pleasant, granted, but the more pleasant their contribution the more dependent on them we become, sometimes to the point of addiction: We can’t live without them.
My new addiction is to devices which are supposed to make my life more efficient, And I believe I am not alone with this particular addiction. In my consulting practice I often work with up to thirty executives who attend a meeting in which I lead a discussion on a problem they are struggling with. I have been doing it for forty years, all over the globe. Over the years I have noticed a change in behavior: In so-called “developed” countries it is increasingly difficult to get the undivided attention of the group. Invariably, a large percentage of them are reading or typing on their BlackBerries or notebook computers during the discussion.
I ask them to stop, and they do; but within minutes they are back to the BlackBerries (aptly called CrackBerries by people addicted to them).
These executives are not the only ones who are literally attached to their BlackBerries at the hip. My spouse says she will not go with me to a movie unless I leave the BlackBerry at home. More than once my BlackBerry has vibrated during the movie and I, instead of watching the movie, start reading and answering emails.
My clients’ spouses tell me that if they were to get divorced it would be because of the BlackBerry or iPhone. Many of us will stop a conversation with our spouse, even in the midst of some painful discussion, to answer a call or text message. Sure, it can wait. Sure, it is not so critical that someone’s life is in danger. But we can’t leave the vibrating CrackBerry alone. Try to take it away from us and we will steal, lie, and cheat to get it back.
Typical addictive behavior, no?
And it is not just the BlackBerry or iPhone anymore. How about Facebook, and Twitter, and blogs? There are so many community-building, network-creating devices that my productivity is not going up, it is going down. Have you ever calculated how much time you spend on these devices?
Why do we behave like this? Addiction. We are addicted to knowing that someone needs us, wants us, or is there for us. From the perspective of the PAEI code, this seems to me like an (I) addiction, an addiction to affiliating.
This (I) addiction may be extremely potent because humans need to interrelated, to connect. The most severe punishment in prison is solitary confinement; prisoners lose their sense of being human.
This need of ours to relate to other people is being exploited, big time, now that Internet technology enables it. For instance my teenage son spends enormous amount of time in chat rooms. Try taking away his Internet privileges and he revolts as if I have prescribed a solitary confinement as a punishment.
Technology seems to free us. On one hand it frees us from isolation, it makes communication easier and more pleasant, but on the other hand it enslaves us because we become dependent on it.
What to do?
Stopping the advance of technology cannot and should not be done. (The Unibomber tried that and he has been sentenced to life in prison.) What is needed is self-discipline.
As with other addictions, who will survive? Those who have the will power to say “no.” No to toxic foods, drugs, and addictive technology. No to endless opportunities that, if we chase them all, leave us with no time to “live.”
Success is increasingly awarded to those who have inner strength.
Success is not out there. It is here.
And thus the problems we have are not “there” but “here.” We looked for the enemy and found it. And you know the answer to this question.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes