TCS Daily


Crackberry Crunch

By Peter C. Glover - August 4, 2006 12:00 AM

When the state engineered new product manufacture controls I knew my days of (occasional) Liquid Paper and felt-tip sniffing were over. I let that one go. But the growing belief that most of us may soon need rescuing from our increasing "technology-influenced behavior" patterns may well become the next bee in the nanny-state's bonnet.

Techno-addiction clinics, programs and other social aids are already flourishing. Just last month Europe's first videogame addiction clinic opened its doors in The Netherlands. In true ├╝ber-liberal behavioral-scientist style, the clinic estimates that up to 20 percent of video-gamers "could develop a dependency". Of course it depends upon who defines "dependency" and "addiction".

"I lived in my room. I have four televisions around me, with one X-Box 360, PlayStation 2, X-Box 1 and a Game Cube and a laptop, where I can play online games," says one 21-year old at the clinic. Spending up to 17 hours a day online he admits, "I have no friends -- only cyber-friends." You don't say.

In her "Ten signs you're tech obsessed" one writer identifies "You forget basic bodily functions" as sign no 1. Obligingly our video-game addict duly confirms, "I take an empty bottle and I pee into it." Ring any bells so far?

With millions in China now swelling the Net community, the first Internet clinic has already opened in Beijing, with two more in Shanghai and Guangzhou due online shortly.

The first study of the impact of Internet addiction in Australia last year claimed that that "a third of respondents were in the process of becoming psychologically addicted". The assumption in the study was that teenagers spending an average of 13 hours per week online could be at risk of "psychological addiction". See what I mean about defining "addicted"? Just 13 hours.

Now there is even a Center for Online and Internet Addiction providing seminars and training for healthcare professionals, teachers and lawyers. Great. Now the social nosey parkers are being encouraged to spot the signs in us, too.

But perhaps you did not know that even the simple daily chore of clearing your e-mails could impair your faculties? According to an extensive study by London's King's College, regular e-mail use "poses a greater threat to your brain than smoking marijuana". It turns out that our "daily interaction with the technology revolution" designed to help us to live more efficient and productive lives can also "deplete our human cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs".

It seems that we "obsessive" e-mailers are bombarded with "context switches" and quickly "develop an inability to distinguish between trivial and significant messages". That at least explains why no one returns e-mail queries anymore. I was beginning to think it was personal. It never occurred that "cognitive ability depletion" could be responsible. The same study (of 100,000 school children in more than 30 countries) found that "non-computer using kids performed better in literacy and numeracy than PC-using children". After all that public money the government sank into public school computerization...

A phone survey in the US found that 14 percent of people admitted to answering their mobile phone during sex. This brings a whole new meaning to "hands-free". And, in the King's College survey mentioned above, 20 percent of respondents confirmed they too were quite prepared to check their messages "mid-conversation".

But no single device has so fed our techno obsession as that mobile miracle known as the Blackberry. Dubbed Crackberries because of the unusual devotion of users, Blackberries are accused of contributing increasingly to marital disharmony (wives finding husbands standing in cupboards under the stairs and hiding away on vacation while using them), creating safety hazards on the street (people check e-mails while crossing the road) and introducing discord into everyday human relationships.

When Blackberry manufacturers Research In Motion were recently accused of a patent-holding infringement the court case threatened to close down the network. The threat had many users panicking and scrambling for back-ups; while others relished the prospect of the freedom it held out. But the furor served only to reveal just how vital a communications cog the Blackberry has become in the machinery of commerce, government and even law enforcement (the FBI exhibited early withdrawal symptoms). The case was finally settled in March of this year. But it is no surprise that in the above list of 10 signs revealing "tech-obsession", sign number 9 states: "You own a Blackberry. Enough said."

One Chicago hotel owner, only too aware of the psychological trauma owning one can mean, devised a "Blackberry-free" zone enabling addicts to go cold turkey during their stay.

Techno "addiction" is plainly becoming both a social phenomena and a growing social problem in our age. As such, it can only be a matter of time before nanny-governments -- it being none of their business -- insist on manufacturers devising warnings or even spamming us to that effect. Thus further addling our "cognitive processes".

So if you already lie back, post-coitally, checking your crackberry or find yourself peeing into a bottle while reading articles (like this one) online, it may, let's face it, already be too late.

Peter C. Glover is a TCS Daily contributor. For more of his writings go to www.wiresfromthebunker.com

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1 Comment

Bloggerel Addiction
It is shocking that the medical benefits of so well financed a site do not extend to clinical treatment for
Editoria Praecox, the dreaded tetanus-like syndrome in which anything falling from the fingers of client's content providers snaps on screen overnight.

Left untreated, the acute ,addictive phase , characterized by compulsive daily bouts of keyboard palsey lasting for up to 2,000 words , may metastatize into Twelve Step Saint Vitus Dance , or terminal loggonorea.

Fortunately, both diseases may be treated by abrupt reader withdrawal or carpal tunnel stents connected to the RF terminals of a WiFi server.

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