Can’t let go of your smartphone? Former Google Workers Launch Campaign to Warn About Technology Addiction
Technology addiction refers to not only a state in which “people cannot let go of their tech devices such as smartphones, televisions, and computers at any time” but also includes the state where people tend to focus on specific activities such as games, gambles, and social networks on the internet. A survey has revealed that the productivity with annual $54 billion is lost due to such technology addiction.
In response to this addiction, former Google, Facebook, ad Mozilla workers launched a foundation called the “Center for Humane Technology” and started a campaign to raise alarm on “technology addiction”.
Together with Common Sense Media, a non-profit group which aims to protect children and families from the internet and technology, the Center for Humane Technology is calling out major tech companies to re-think and re-design the development and sales of addictive interfering products and services.
Why is digital addiction spreading among the young?
In the GFK study reported on June 2017, 34 percent of the 22,000 consumers (aged 15 and over) in 17 countries and regions find it difficult to take a break from technology, even when they know they should. It is more than double of those (16 percent) who do not find it difficult.
Such addiction can mainly be seen among young people. People aged 60 and over account for 15 percent, on the other hand, people aged 15-19 and 20-29 account for 44 percent and 41 percent respectively.
In what state, exactly, can it be considered an addiction? It would be when someone goes beyond simply just liking to play games or spend time using a smartphone or computer, more so than the average person,. It is also the state where social communications and ordinary tasks are shut down with digital devices; for example, feeling uneasy when they are not playing games, or checking text messages or social networks all the time even when they are with someone else. That being said, someone who may be spending a long time surfing the internet or playing games, but are able to actively have social communications and does not face any disturbance in their ordinary life, would not be regarded as addicted.
Does Excessive Digital Life “Change the Brain Structure”?
According to Christine Gregory, Ph.D. at North Carolina State University, the causes of technology addiction have not been found yet. Neurotransmitters called “dopamine” secreted in the brain during drugs or alcohol use are also secreted in the brain of those who are technology addicted. This theory is the most convincing among many researchers. Additionally, it is reported that in a research that technology addiction also changes the brain structure itself.
If people continue to be addicted to technology, they will be affected mentally and physically in the end. They say negative emotions such as manic depression, unfaithfulness, guilt, loneliness and fear are increasing, and causes physical problems such as insomnia and migraine headaches. (PSYCOM article dated on December 4, 2017)
If these symptoms worsen, ordinary life will also be affected. According to a recent study by a ranking site “Vault.com”, surfing costs $54 billion annually in lost productivity. (CNBC article dated on August 29, 2017) Furthermore, WHO announced in January 2018 that the symptom of not being to stop playing video games is recognised under the International Statistical Classification of Diseases. The National Institutes of Health provided funding to the “internet addiction research” conducted by the University of Connecticut School of Medicine for the first time. It seems the world has finally come to realize how serious the situations are.
Adjust Technology for the Best Profit for Humans
Technology addiction is affecting the society more than we expected, and it is concerning that it negatively affects not only adults but children as well. Lately, it is not unusual to see parents showing their infant babies videos on the smartphone or tablet. It is important to call out tech companies providing these products and services to be more socially responsible, and for consumers to recognize and control the excessive intrusion of technology as well.
What the Center for Humane Technology is trying to achieve through their campaigns is to “reverse the digital attention crisis and realign technology with humanity’s best interests”.
“Technology is hijacking our minds and society“ is a strong and bold statement on its However, it would not be an exaggerated expression at all.
The team members include people who are strong in the tech industry – Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google, Aza Raskin, former head of User Experience at Mozilla, Roger McNamee who worked on the launch of Facebook, and Randima Fernando who received an award from NVIDIA and dealt with various projects.
These experts are familiar with risks in technology raises alarm over social influence affected by addiction. For example, McNamee has been concerned strongly about “how irresponsible Facebook is for the potential ill causes” since around 2016.
We do not know how much tech companies will respond to the voices raising awareness on the risks in technology addiction. For these tech companies, restricting addiction can be a cause of decreasing their profits. If consumers, however, recognize potential addiction and learn to prevent or recover from addiction, a gradual improvement can be achieved.
James Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media, emphasized, “We are not anti-tech. We are into the appropriate and balanced use of technology.”