Audrey Watters answers the question whether we’re ‘addicted’ to technology:
I am hesitant to make any clinical diagnosis about technology and addiction – I’m not a medical professional. But I’ll readily make some cultural observations, first and foremost, about how our notions of “addiction” have changed over time. “Addiction” is medical concept but it’s also a cultural one, and it’s long been one tied up in condemning addicts for some sort of moral failure. That is to say, we have labeled certain behaviors as “addictive” when they’ve involve things society doesn’t condone. Watching TV. Using opium. Reading novels. And I think some of what we hear in discussions today about technology usage – particularly about usage among children and teens – is that we don’t like how people act with their phones. They’re on them all the time. They don’t make eye contact. They don’t talk at the dinner table. They eat while staring at their phones. They sleep with their phones. They’re constantly checking them.
The problem is that our devices are designed to be addictive, much like casinos. The apps on our phones are designed to increase certain metrics:
I think we’re starting to realize – or I hope we’re starting to realize – that those metrics might conflict with other values. Privacy, sure. But also etiquette. Autonomy. Personal agency. Free will.
Ultimately, she thinks, this isn’t a question of addiction. It’s much wider than that:
How are our minds – our sense of well-being, our knowledge of the world – being shaped and mis-shaped by technology? Is “addiction” really the right framework for this discussion? What steps are we going to take to resist the nudges of the tech industry – individually and socially and yes maybe even politically?
Source: Audrey Watters
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