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Is It Still An Addiction If It's Good For You?

from the just-wondering... dept

We've mocked the various researchers who like to call just about every new popular technology an addiction, when there's no real evidence that there are any dependency issues involved. As we've said, these researchers are using the emotional reaction people have to the word "addiction," associating it with chemical dependencies and dangerous and damaging activities. However, what if it turns out that the "addiction" is actually good for you? More than a few times, researchers have warned about the problems of email addiction and referred to portable Blackberry devices as "Crackberries" to play up the supposed addiction. Earlier this week we even wrote about researchers who warned such addictions could lead to legal liabilities for companies who provide their employees Blackberries. Of course, new research today shows that 77% of people with such devices found that they enhanced their work-life balance, rather than impeded it. So, we have to ask, is it still proper to use the emotionally-charged term "addiction" when the net results are most likely to be beneficial? As people have pointed out in the past, we're all "addicted" to things like air and water, but that's not a bad thing. Is the same true of mobile email?

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  1. identicon
    Medezark, 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:43am

    Buy the Company Line

    It is an addiction. It is detrimental. We have not learned how to use these technologies to their greates effectiveness and efficiencies. Instead, we use them to boost our own sense of importance, our status, and our egos, and completely ignore the harmful side effects of our gluttony.

    Bear in mind that the "new research" was conducted, not by an impartial party or a party with particular expertise in the nature of addictions or mental health, sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, or doctors, but by an Executive Staffing company, which would tend to bias both the research methodology and the results of said research. It's sort of like having a Cosmetic Surgery school do research on whether or not Cosmetic Surgery is necessary and relying on them to only interview Cosmetic Surgeons. Your answer is predetermined. I'm actually surprised that this "research" didn't come up with "90%" rather than "77%".

    How can one say that the US's current work habits are not addictive when stress related illnesses are on the rise (although not as deadly, as the Drug Industry has risen to the challenge by providing ever better means of allaying the symptoms).

    #1: Electronic communications, especially text messages, are neither as effective nor as expressive as a phone call, and a phone call isn't as good as face-to-face conversation. Meanings and intonations become lost in the translation, especially when we try to compress the language with abbreviations, acronyms, and l33t 5p3ak. They are "faster", most of the time, but faster is not always better.

    #2: Corporations / Employers have a vested interest in saddling their employees with these devices. And Employees are so infatuated with the status of having them, and of having these wonderful toys to show off, that they allow it. And suddenly they are 24 hour a day slaves compensated only for 8, and GRATEFUL for it!

    #3: Take a look at the recent statistical research on Cell Phone use and Auto and Industrial accidents. Or the recent research showing that cell phone use while driving is a GREATER impairment than heavy drinking. Work/Life balance isn't in balance when you've broadsided a mini-van and killed someone, or run a red light and end up in the hospital on traction. But, you can always use your Crackberry from the hospital bed, or your cell phone from the cell block i guess.

    We ARE addicted to our technology. Every new fangled gadget or gew-gaw that comes out, we have to have. It's a status thing, rather than a means to a more effective working environment or a better "work/life" balance.

    One of the owners of the company I work for has over 4 GB of e-mail and has to have a new laptop every month. He brags to customers, vendors, and friends about how he's got so much e-mail we're going to have to get a mail server just for him. He shows off his laptop, brags about how it's a "double-crow" (yes, double-crow, not dual core) and has 4 mega-bits of ram. 90% of the e-mail he has stored is spam, junk mail, and chain letters. He can't make a pivot table in excel, or change a formula. He's on his cell phone so much they may have to surgically remove it from his ear. Has technology made him more effective? NO. It just makes him feel more important, it's an ego boost.

    (BTW, his Nephew was in a car accident 3 weeks ago. He was on his cell phone with his uncle and failed to see a red light. Car totaled, shattered both wrists and on leg. His wife and newborne son were in the car with him and miraculously escaped injury. Good work/life balancing there, huh?)

    Their are specific individual circumstances, positions and people who ARE more effective when provided with omnipresent connectivity. Maybe 1/2% of the current total. But, by and large, it's all about status and ego.

    Where are the Luddites when we really need them?

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