Our smart phones are making dumb people
ADDICTION takes many forms. For some people it involves putting a needle into their arm, and most of us cannot imagine doing that. For others it involves alcohol, or gambling, which most of us can more easily understand. We are more likely to have seen those up close.
We have all met people who cannot survive without cigarettes. We see people who cannot seem to stop eating despite what it does to their health. And people who control their food intake rigorously with many features of addictive behaviour.
New addictions are dreamt up all the time. Until recently most of us would not have paid much attention to the notion of being a sex addict. Being a Hollywood star and mega rich seem to be entry level requirements so it will not trouble most of us unduly. I am around long enough to remember people talking about being addicted to television. Despite living with one channel which began with something like Let’s Draw late in the afternoon and finished with the National Anthem long before midnight, there were many people who could not bear to miss a minute of what was on the box. Some were said to watch the Test Card.
There were fears for the art of conversation since such people would not tolerate talking during F Troop or Going Strong with Bunny Carr. So long as there was something flickering on that screen they were glued to it. Over the years people gradually learned to turn the box off. Today we are faced with massive screens with high definition and hundreds of channels and we still manage to say there is nothing on.
The dire consequences for society as a result of television addiction have not materialised.
I had a brief encounter with a subsection of television addiction years ago when I took six weeks at home to work on a project. I soon slipped into a routine where I stopped for soup and a sandwich at the same time each day and caught the News which was followed by Neighbours. It took only about a week before I was totally engaged with the people of Ramsay Street and what Harold Bishop was up to. When I finally went back to work I had withdrawal symptoms. I did cold turkey and have never watched any soaps since.
I have no desire to subject myself to hours of drivel cleverly designed to keep us watching while doing us no good whatsoever.
I quit, but I am not so sure I would have been as successful had I spent those lunchtimes developing the smart phone addiction which is currently rampant across all age groups.
The chunks of information are smaller. The visual content changes quickly and is sometimes interesting. As it becomes less interesting we search longer.
This is the same way people get hooked on the one-armed bandits. They always win and the phone is doing a good job at winning.
Everyone I asked told me they knew an addict who spends hours scrolling and scrolling. It is a total waste of time, and seems to be a very hard habit to break. The scroller is off in their own world, oblivious to people or things in the vicinity.
Television did not change the world as we knew it. Smart phones might. I recommend cold turkey.