Is Technology Making You Sick?

iStock_000019120930XSmallA Scottish teenager who was banned from using the internet as part of his sentence for crimes including hacking into the CIA, Visa, and Sony Pictures , wrote in the British online newspaper, The Guardian, that in the year he’s been offline, his health has improved.

Jake Davis, known as “Topiary” when he was involved with the hacktivist groups Anonymous, and LulzSec, says, “the feeling of being able to close my eyes without being bombarded with flashing shapes or constant buzzing sounds, which had occurred frequently since my early teens…. Sleep is now tranquil and uninterrupted and books seem far more interesting. The paranoia has certainly vanished.”

This caught my eye, because of a book I read recently called, “iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us ” by Dr. Larry Rosen. Rosen is a psychologist who found that over-immersion with technology actually causes changes in our brains that can lead to sleeplessness,  anxiety, depression, stress, and other psychological, mood, and personality disorders.

These ill effects, he says, are the result of  lack of sleep due to so much time spent online, spending less time  interacting with friends offline, and focusing on negative, depressing, content online.

In addition, there is some indication that depression is somewhat like a contagious disease; i.e., if the friends you’re hanging out with online–say, on Facebook, for example– are talking about depressing stuff all the time; you’re more likely to start feeling that way yourself.

On the plus side, if you’re feeling bad and get empathy from your online friends; that online empathy can actually make you feel better.

Anxiety and depression are just the tip of the iceberg. Other problems include obsessive-compulsive behavior, narcissistic personality disorder, hypochondria, delusions, hallucinations, and social avoidance.

Although you may have heard  some of this information before; you probably haven’t heard quite as much of it, or in as much depth as Rosen presents in iDisorder.

Whether it’s your laptop, mobile phone, iPad, XBox, or whatever–the more you use it; the more you want to use it. The more you want to use it; the more likely you are to do annoying things like constantly check your email during dinner with your family, narcissistic things like obsessively updating your Facebook status, or outright dangerous things like texting while driving.

Of course, not everyone who gets anxious when they can’t check their email, texts, or Facebook status every few minutes has an iDisorder. But, the more you find out about how prevalent illnesses related to over-use of technology really are; the more seriously you might take ideas such as:

  • Technology breaks: Consciously set aside a certain interval–say, every 15  minutes or so–to check your email, texts, Facebook status, etc. Give yourself one or two minutes at that time, and then don’t check again until your next scheduled break.
  •  Get social offline: Spend more actual face-to-face time with actual people in real life, than online, texting, video-chatting, or on the phone.
  • Spend more time in nature: Go outside and chill out. Even just 15 minutes in a natural setting can help you calm down. If you can’t get outside for a break; apparently even pictures of trees, streams, and the like, will work.  And no–don’t look at them online. Try looking at pictures in a book, or maybe at photos you’ve tacked up on the wall  at your office.

I found the book to be very interesting, informative, thought-provoking, and more than a little worrisome. Don’t be surprised if you see  some of your own behavior described.

If you find yourself saying  repeatedly; “Hey, that’s me! Yep. Check. Right. Me. Yeah, me too. Uh-Oh…me again!“; you might just have an iDisorder.

But you’re not alone.  These days, we probably all have a bit of an iDisorder. The question is, “how much?”

iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With  Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us” by Larry Rosen PhD

CNET: A Peek Behind The Mask: Anonymous “Topiary” Speaks

The Guardian UK: Anonymous: Behind the Masks of The Cyberinsurgents

The Guardian UK: My Life after Anonymous “I Feel More Fulfilled After the Internet”

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