Technology Addiction: The drug of the information age

In this post, I’ll be taking a look at a Twitter comment that I received from @forwardtherapy. It was about my last blog entry on labelling internet addiction. The comment stated: “My professional experience is, the label is less significant than discussing Internet use as a response to life circumstances.”

The DSM

From a medical perspective, the labelling of internet addiction is important as a diagnostic tool for the DSM. But, thinking from a therapeutic perspective (as I would in my psychotherapy practice), I can’t help but see the relevance of @forwardtherapy’s statement. This was confounded by watching the documentary ‘Web Junkies’ on BBC iplayer.

The documentary featured teenagers who played computer games for hours, days or even weeks in internet cafes. Their addiction made them neglect all other aspects of their lives. In fact, children were known to die in these cafes – from not eating or sleeping for days on end. Absolutely shocking. 

During the documentary, it was clear that this centre was the only one that sought to treat both the children and the parents. From the very first encounter with the children, I was shocked. Their whole world was no longer in the physical realm. They were fully engrossed in the virtual world. Their friends, lovers and even enemies, were all online. Many of them had completely lost touch with their physical surroundings.

As the documentary went on, we started to learn the children’s back-stories and heard from the parents. One parent explained how he beat his son. He admitted to brandishing brandishing a knife and threatening to stab him. In his own words, he “didn’t want to stab him really but scare him.”

RD Laing

At this point, all I could think about was RD Laing’s book, ‘Sanity Madness and the Family’. In the book, schizophrenic children were interviewed with their parents – shining a light on the development of the patients’ schizophrenic diagnosis. What was revealed showed the connection between the schizophrenic’s upbringing, relationship with their parents, their symptoms and diagnosis.

Returning back to the child in the documentary, it does not surprise me that they had such a volatile upbringing. Many of the interviewees sought the safety of a different world. A world with pre-governed rules. A world where they can connect with like-minded people and gain validation – from the game an online friends.

I am not suggesting that this is applicable to all of us in our society. But,  it does make me wonder why so many would rather talk on social media rather than to the person sitting in front of us. What are we running from?

LinkedIn

There was a post on LinkedIn (about my previous blog post) from Jennie Cummings-Knight which said: ‘I have periods of obsessive checking of my phone for messages, also obsessive checking of emails when I should be writing articles or getting on with coursework. Contributing to online forums is for me another aspect of my addiction to screens.’

Delving into the virtual world seems to give many of us space to distance ourselves from our problems and anxieties.

Returning to @forwardtherapy’s statement, what seems more relevant in order to treat technology addiction or ‘internet addiction’ is to look past the behaviour – and look at what many of us are trying to run away from. What are the feelings that drive us to use technology and the internet in a destructive way?

It seems that technology then is the drug of the information age. It allows us to distance ourselves from our troubles and gain gratification (random reward generation for example) while soothing our stresses and massaging our virtual egos.

If you feel the virtual world is getting in the way of your life, take a look at how Therapy can help you overcome these issues and reconnect with the physical world.

Therapy in London

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