That's a loaded question and I'm sure many readers immediately reacted with a resounding NO! I'm not an addict. Well, I beg to differ. I'm going to suggest you're a rare person if you're not an addict.
Okay, let me clarify this a bit. I certainly hope you're not an alcoholic or drug junkie (either prescription or recreational drugs) or pornography. I also hope you're not addicted to gambling, sex, food and binge eating, smoking, binge shopping, life threatening adrenaline rushes, work (for an employer or, especially your own business) and similar. Alcohol and drugs, just plain BAD. Pornography is a controversial issue. The others, in moderation and as appropriate, meaning it doesn't jeopardize your family, financial security, home, physical being and so on, but you do some of these occasionally when it's reasonable and safe are probably okay.
Now, here is what I'm really talking about. Are you addicted to:
Netflix Binge Watching
Amazon Prime Binge Watching
Hulu Binge Watching
Mindless Reality Shows
You can add to this list as necessary for you personally.
Now, please don't kid your self or insult my intelligence by saying no to all of these. The reality is, that virtually everyone is addicted to at least one of these things and most likely more than one. And, worse yet, you may not even realize it. Most addicts, as I'm sure you're aware, are in denial. Some never accept their addictions and may suffer serious negative consequences many times as extreme as loss of family, financial ruin and even death. “Gees,” you say, “he's really serious about this isn't he?”
Yes! I am! This subject has been banging around in my head lately. What triggered this article was a blog post the other morning by a voice-over colleague from Las Vegas, Nevada. Dave made me stop short and think about the thoughts I mentioned that were rolling around in my noggin. He included a couple links to some very revealing thoughts on this subject. One of them included a TED Talk link. I read them and watched the TED Talk with great interest. If any of this may be ringing a bell with you, then read on.
The Land That Was
This was the world, basically, pre-1985. During the 80's personal computers advanced from home hobbyists to personal computers thanks to Apple, Radio Shack, IBM and a number of other tech companies. The personal computer race was on. I won't detail all the rapid expansion, growth and acceleration of technology as the Silicon Valley race was on. Suffice to say, faster, more powerful, smaller, portable and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound became the constant goal. Fairly rapidly, computers changed everything including our cars, how we prepare food, how we play games and entertain ourselves, learning, personal communication, how we shop, etc. I don't believe there are very many ways that computers haven't reshaped our world.
About that same time (actually, the first systems went on line in 1983) mobile, bag and portable, hand-held wireless cell phones hit the scene. In the beginning, like all new technology, computers and cell phones and service was prohibitive for most people. But, the prices came down fairly rapidly as the technology proved its value and volume of phone sales and service increased. Of course, with the change over to digital technology and the unbelievable reduction in size of microchips, cell phones incorporated micro processors and, viola, the realization of the smart phone. Once again, Apple, one of the early innovators in personal computers introduced one of the first generation of this new smartphone device, the iPhone, and people went crazy.
The Rest Is History
As the old saying goes, and the rest is history. We haven't looked back. Today, people, including kids and seniors have this pocket-sized device, in their pocket or purse, that incorporates the telephone with the computer and has many times more power than the computers and communication devices that took human beings from Earth to the moon and safely returned them to Earth.
So, what changes have become part of our daily lives since these new technologies appeared on the scene? Well, remember the list I mentioned above about the things we remember from The Land That Was? They are pretty much all gone now. You'll occasionally find vestiges of it, but it's the exception, not the norm.
Oh yeah, and along with these technologies and devices and the low cost to have and use the technology, came high-definition television, digital cable and satellite TV, the Internet (that has actually been around in its earliest forms since the later 60's and 70's, but was only used in the scientific and national defense fields until it opened to the public in the 90's), computer games, podcasting, YouTube, social networking and the list goes on. Basically, all this technology has revolutionized the world, so much so, that one could probably say, ultimately, it, as one single revolution, is greater than the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, radio broadcasting, television, sound recording, video recording, etc. combined.
So, this is all good, right? Ah, but here's the rub. Sure it's good. It's expanded our worlds exponentially. The Dick Tracy wrist watch communicator and the 1960's Star Trek “Communicator” are now reality. The telegraph is gone. The wired telephone system is rapidly dwindling. The broadcast TV and Radio field is facing serious competition and has to make sure they have a presence on cable & satellite TV and the Internet to remain viable. But, now they are competing with millions of producers creating “content” that no longer is limited to a traditional broadcast station. They are on the cable/satellite, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Instagram and other video outlets.
What's truly been lost though is actual, true, one on one human interaction. We are literally NEVER (with only a very few minor exceptions, soon be eliminated) out of contact with our network of friends, family, work colleagues, members of groups we belong to, etc. Everyone is virtually a “click” away. We're back in contact with friends from our childhood and school days, college friends, past work associates, people we were involved with from various special interest groups and we can even join and participate in activities we're not even geographically close to. We earn college degrees. We work at home. We start all kinds of businesses from our home. We purchase merchandise and services, without leaving the comfort of our air conditioned homes. In other words, we don't actually have to come in contact with most, or possibly any, other people.
When I was 15 and 16 years old I couldn't wait to turn 17 (the age to obtain a drivers license in New Jersey). Today, many young people are passing on obtaining a drivers license because they don't need to go anywhere. They are either stationary or use public transportation. People don't go for a night out to visit friends and family. You seldom see kids playing sandlot baseball, touch football, dodge ball, hide and seek, tag, hopscotch, etc. in yards or on the streets. It's all done playing games on computers and smartphones like Words with Friends and other solo or online participation games. The retail business is changing its form, also. Even the ubiquitous giant, Walmart, is changing its stripes due to competition from the e commerce 8,000 pound gorilla, Amazon (and to think, Jeff Besos' Wall Street colleagues told him not to give up his day job). Borders Bookstores are now history. Barnes & Noble are working hard to stay alive and have been eliminating stores over the past few years.
The bottom line is our U.S. society doesn't much resemble The Land That Was. Good or Bad? Yes! Good AND Bad.
We laugh at the cartoons we see on Facebook showing a group of kids or adults interacting in a social setting, each with their eyes trained on a smartphone. Kids actually text each other while in the same room. Ha! Ha! Laughable! But, is it? I did an article on this blog a couple years ago (before I acquired my current OnePlus smartphone) detailing about 38 devices and ways my smartphone was making my life better, more efficient, simpler and so on. I really thought I was the “cat's meow.” (That's an old saying many of you may have never heard – that's how old I am).
As I read my friend's, Dave Courvoisier's, blog article and then read the articles he linked to, I realized that I and just about everyone I know is addicted to one or more of the items I listed at the opening of this article. Holy cow! Am I losing my humanity? Am I being “assimilated” into a form of human/automaton hybrid? Will AI, artificial intelligence, claim my birthright as a free thinking human? “Resistance is futile,” according to members of the Borg Collective during various episodes of the Star Trek franchise. I don't think so, at least not for my generation and probably not for the next generation or two. But, what of the future? Are we not already seeing and experiencing some of the changes that Huxley, Orwell, Rand and others predicted more than a half century ago?
Think about your own behaviors. Do you find yourself constantly checking YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. for the latest, newest stuff? Do you do more and more of your shopping on line or possibly watching one of the shopping networks on TV (they are, of course, also on the Internet)? Are more and more of your meetings online, through teleconferencing or conference calls? Do, you text or personal message people more and more? Do you prefer emailing friends, relatives and colleagues? Do you find yourself speaking in acronyms like OMG, LOL, WTF and so on. Do you binge watch TV programs on the online networks? Do you never miss an episode of The Bachelor, the Bachelorette, American Ninja or The Black List, NCIS, Criminal Minds, etc. Do you spend hours playing online games like Words with Friends with people you don't know, sometimes having 5, 6 or even more games going simultaneously? If you can answer never to all of these addictions and the rest of them listed at the beginning of this article, I would say, you are in a very small minority.
How often do you sit down and actually READ a book. When was the last time you picked up a phone and called a friend or family member just to say hello and actually talk. When was the last time you actually went out of your way to see a friend, go out for lunch or dinner or to a favorite hangout for a beer or a birch beer. If you can answer regularly to these and similar activities, then you are definitely doing something right.
But, let's be honest with ourselves. No one wants to admit to being addicted to anything. It's human nature to feel like we're in control. However, reality says that every technological device, service, game, etc. is absolutely designed to get you hooked. Some years ago, cigarette manufacturers finally admitted they laced cigarettes with chemicals to addict people to smoking. It's also easier to look at someone else actually doing what you do and condemn that person, but not want to accept that you are actually them.
So, step one, analyze yourself and your behavior. Two, admit to yourself, and maybe others (often helpful) that you have an addiction to one or more things. Three, attack them one at a time (if you have more than one) and once you're no longer controlled by that behavior, move on to the next. Eventually you'll be free. But, be aware and be careful, it's VERY easy to backslide and fall back into old addictive patterns. Four, find healthy ways and outlets to aid you in not falling back.
I will admit, I'm guilty as charged. Not of everything on the list, but of several things. What am I going to do about it? First, I'm going to start focusing on NOT pulling my phone out of my pocket over and over all day long. I'm going to discipline myself to check email, Facebook and other online services twice a day and answer anything that needs it then. I'm going to shorten my answers. I'm going to begin focusing on reading and writing more. I'm going to create a list of people I NEED to pick up the phone, call and actually talk to on a regular basis to let them know I'm thinking about them and how important they are to me. Those are just starters. Thankfully, I'm not into a lot of the other addictions.
I'm going to give you the links to the two really good articles, Dave turned me onto. They are long (like I don't write long), but read them all the way through and watch the 15 or so minute TED Talk video. You will learn and gain from all of it. Here are the two links. The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul and Our Minds Have Been Hijacked By Our Phones this second link has the TED Talk link embedded in it.
This blog is all about living free and being happy. Isn't that what we're all ultimately seeking in this life? Well, any addictive behavior, whether dealing with substance abuse, abusive behavior or extreme behavior actually becomes like your own personal prison cell. We can take any really good thing, like the fantastic technology we have available 24/7, and allow it to unconsciously control our lives. Think about how you feel when you're being ignored in favor of a computer screen, regardless of the size. That's what you're doing to your friends, family and professional colleagues.
Let's see how many of the great facets of “The Land That Was” lifestyle many of us remember, can be reactivated in our Technological Today World. Read books. Call People. Interact on a one to one personal level with people. Let's see if we can reincorporate, as John Naisbett termed it in his book, “MegaTrends,” “high touch” and tone down some of the “high tech” in our lives a bit. Until next time, live free and be happy. EH.