Shane Long Zhong
Shane Long Zhong

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Technology Addictions

Technology addictions are defined by Mark Griffiths at Nottingham Trent University as nonchemical (behavioural) addictions that involve human-machine interaction. According to Griffiths, these addictions can be passive (e.g. television) or active (e.g. computer games) (Rosen, L. 2012, P.63). Meanwhile, several other psychologists have proposed that the concept is too broad and needs to be refined further. Dr. Kimberly Young, a professor at St. Bonaventure University and author of Tangled in the Web, suggest that addicts become hooked on specific applications (P.63). For example, an online video game, social networking application, internet browser etc. Nowadays, these all compress into miniscule applications and can be installed on your formfitting devices, such as smart phones, pads and even wearable devices.

These apps – social networking apps or game apps – seem to be the perfect magical stress reliever that might however lead to psychological dependence. Social networking, as shown in the model (Figure 01), only requires a few cues and is asynchronous while face-to-face interaction is most synchronous and requires the highest number of cues. According to Rosen, ‘Our reliance on computers and other devices to ‘keep us connected’ may be doing psychological harm if we rely too much on them and not enough on maintaining healthy lifestyles, including face-to-face interactions that give us the needed context and cues that socialise us’ (Rosen, L. 2012, P.172).

Figure 01 Two-Dimensional Model of Communication Modalities

From a social capital perspective, ‘Social networking is about collecting your social capital’ (Rosen, L. 2012, P.37). Martin Gargiulo, an Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD and expert on social network analysis, claims that social networks are an asset that helps individuals get things done but they can also represent a liability. Gargiulo cautions against having too wide a network because maintaining these relationships requires time and can distract people from caring for the ones that truly matter. His recommendation is to condense one’s network into a core group of ‘between 20 and 30 … and sometimes even smaller’. These people may change over time (some ties become stronger, some weaker), but there is always a core network that matters, and you need to nurture these ties above all others (Cho, K. 2009). Dave Morin, an American entrepreneur, angel investor and CEO and co-founder of the social network Path, stated that ‘50 is the perfect number of friends’ (Constine, J. 2012). According to Morin, Path is perfect for nurturing these core ties and he also claims that Path’s competitors are not Facebook or Twitter, but email and sms because these people have been opting to share content through older mediums instead of new-fangled tools (Constine, J. 2012). In addition to using email addresses to register for different online resources, those who have each other’s phone numbers are most likely part of the core tie group. Regardless of who the group is composed of, perhaps family members, close friends, old friends or colleagues, the group is likely to evolve over time as mentioned previously. To maintain a balanced lifestyle and connected daily routine, a model has been visualised based on the overlapped views of Martin Gargiulo, Dave Morin and Larry Rosen (Figure 02).

 

Figure 02 ‘Nurture the Core Ties’ Model

To avoid being over attached to these devices, social networking activities should be moderated and nurturing core ties is a good way to achieve this. The advantage of this approach is that you can prioritise your connections and reduce the burdens significantly whilst maintaining a connection to your core ties. For example, when there are emergencies, your friends and family members can reach you via phone calls or text messages. Similarly, your old friends or colleagues may send you information via email or social networking platform, which can be read later, as they are asynchronous (Figure 01).

Overall, according to the Attention Restoration Theory (ART), the best way to assuage the symptoms brought about by technology addiction is to ‘unplug’ for a while. In other words, get out into nature, spend face-to-face time with others and take a break from technology (Rosen, L. 2012).

According to Sieberg, ‘It’s time to make peace with technology, not war. It’s about moderation, not elimination […] technology should liberate you, not inundate you’ (Sieberg, D. 2011).

Shane Zhong

Shane Zhong