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?

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Sal, 25 Aug 2006 @ 1:45am

    business execs

    "77% of people with such devices found that they enhanced their work-life balance, rather than impeded it"
    Replace people with business execs. America is "addicted" to working. If you doubt me I can campare it with Europe and Egypt. Business execs will take their laptop on vacation so they can get some work done. Of course a device that lets them e-mail anywhere would improve their life by their terms, but what about their family?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    John, 25 Aug 2006 @ 2:13am

    By definition, addiction's bad

    I might suggest that vocabulary's the problem.

    Rough definition: Addictive behaviors, substances, relationships, etc involve loss of control. They negatively affecting legal, family, financial, work/school, and/or social areas of life - and the user cannot stop or control it, despite repeated efforts to do so.

    Otherwise it's not addiction. Rather than enhance jobs, etc., true addictive problems has a cost of people. They are - no-kidding - bad news for anyone.

    If it's really meets the definition of an addictive behavior, Iit's always problematic. I do this professionally for a living. I ought to know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    ?, 25 Aug 2006 @ 2:16am

    Re: By definition, addiction's bad

    looks like somebody was paying attention in psyc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    elaine, 25 Aug 2006 @ 3:10am

    I must agree that the usage of the term "addiction" is the problem. I think that they should look more into the term's meaning before using it in such cases.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    w1nX, 25 Aug 2006 @ 3:36am

    Re: By definition, addiction's bad

    Hey - now you can go work in Amsterdam at their new "Net Junkie" addiction clinic(s)!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Junkie, 25 Aug 2006 @ 4:48am

    Useless comments

    I'm addicted to every once in a while posting a really useless comment on here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Click-on-you-too, 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:27am

    Hooked and loving it.

    Must click on the nest link...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Stan, 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:47am

    Re: business execs

    Yes, a great communication tool can improve your life.

    Who argues against it? Utopians who push "Work/Life Balance" because "Laziness" still has some stigma. They do not see Europe as a morass-bound socialist nightmare that must import workers because the people are too lazy to even replace themselves by procreation.

    Work hard, be happy, enjoy the results and you are a walking insult to those who yearn for the 365 day per year vacation from life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:48am

    Out of context...

    Its nothing new for politicians and researchers to take words out of context to make thier position look good. I was always under the impression that addictions were harmful by definition. And based on that I would say that tech devices can be additctive, but always. Think about family situations where the parents are always on their cell phones talking company businees and ignoring their kids.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    chris (profile), 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:51am

    addiction used to be funny

    using the terms addiction and junkie to describe something that was obviously not addictive (like television, chocolate, shopping) and terms like Xaholic (chocaholic, shopaholic, workaholic) used to be witty and sarcastic.

    now the useage has become commonplace and somewhere along the line, people started taking it seriously.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Bob, 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:37am

    Addiction

    My research indicates that researchers are addicted to calling things addictions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. 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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Der Ooestericher, 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:48am

    Re: Re: business execs

    Of course, when you look value of the services provided by the gov't of France, which are admittedly relatively poor services, added to their GDP, you find something very interesting.

    Their GDP per capita is essentially the same as the US. In far fewer hours worked per week.

    So, could we do more in less time? How much time do we spend "looking busy" because of our stupid Puritanical obsession with loving hard work?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Stan, 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:56am

    LOL at the comparison

    LOL on France's governmental GDP.

    If you add the weight of the moon to New Jersey, New Jersey weighs more than Europe, India and Asia combined. So what.

    Statistical gymnastics aside, the GDP of France is appalling, and they know it. Thus their contempt for productivity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Der Ooestericher, 25 Aug 2006 @ 7:18am

    Re: LOL at the comparison

    Adding in a value for services that are counted towards US GDP, but not counted in France's is hardly "statistical gymnastics".

    Health care accounts for 1/7th of the US economy. It takes a much smaller slice to make up the difference.

    If you'd rather, remove the portion of the US economy that is devoted to health care service delivery. You end up with the same result.

    France has a more efficient economy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Zeroth404, 25 Aug 2006 @ 7:40am

    Addiction! So?

    You say "Addiction", I say shut up.

    When did the idea of addiction become such a bad thing with disregard for whatever may be the focus of the addiction?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Brad Eleven, 25 Aug 2006 @ 8:25am

    trade-offs abound (nothing new, here)

    I agree, it's semantics and terminology that prevent us from agreeing about this topic.

    What is addiction? What is work/life balance?

    Something tells me that my definitions will differ from yours today. We may agree tomorrow, and whether both or only one of us has shifted his/her perspective--or whether the shift is due to consideration or just that "something happened"--the agreement is neither tangible, nor is it permanent.

    It is my opinion that the world has already changed wrt DRM, and that all of this discussion is merely us catching up. See also TERRORISM, GLOBALIZATION, &c

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    worker bee, 25 Aug 2006 @ 8:53am

    really...

    does it count as working 8 hours a day if i read & respond to posts like this all day? is the corporate corps of france bloggin about blogging for 8 hours? is that efficient? you can say europe has better systems, but they're not perfect. "efficiency" doesn't mean "best". honestly, the only reason i'm posting this is so i can be right, gain some status with people i'll never meet and gain immortality as google indexes my comment.

    another thought...are we arguing semantics to justify our behavior or condemn the study? Yeah I think all the tech and work "addictions" are horrible. it's because we find our entire identity in our paycheck. americans work too many hours but i'm not sure about how hard we (myself included) work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Comments, 25 Aug 2006 @ 9:16am

    Re: Buy the Company Line

    How could you have such a strong opinion on this subject??? Who would actually take the time to read your garbage??? Keep things short and sweet and you may actually get your point across.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Kratos, 25 Aug 2006 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Buy the Company Line

    I read that comment in it's entirity. And I can agree with him on the most part.

    It unintelligence and lack of knowledge on the matter of this technology. If more people were properly educated on the moderate use of this technology, there wouldn't be any "addiction" stigma placed with it.

    My father works for a company that installs and services dairy farm equipment in the Central Pennsylvania area. Recently, he mentioned the company having replaced a co-worker's laptop PC, but failed to provide my father with one, despite my father having been employed there for over 5 years. This is a minor greivance, however. My father has been more than capable of doing his job just as efficiently (if not more-so) as his co-workers.

    So, more people meed to realize that these devices are tools. Just as much as any legal pad and pen.

    (Also, I must ask. OMG!???!! WHY DO YOU USE SO MANY QUESTION MARKS???! Rather than make any emphasis, it makes you look like a 12-year-old script kiddie.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2006 @ 9:43am

    Working for what

    Americans are so proud of their silly work ethic.

    http://freespace.virgin.net/sarah.peter.nelson/pages/busybee.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    MiniDevil, 25 Aug 2006 @ 10:34am

    Re: Buy the Company Line

    " 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. "

    Nothing you are saying proves that anyone is addicted to anything. Technology links the globe, and provides an even faster paced environment than before.

    Let's face it, over the millennia, there have always been assholes and idiots like your boss which you mentioned above.

    There have always been workaholics. Yes, Yes, that's right, there were workaholics before the computer was even invented.

    So let's just stop placing blame on technology, addiction, or anything else for that matter. People are people. There are idiots, there are assholes, there are pricks, there are workaholics, etc, etc, etc.

    This is all part of society. It is the mere integration of this technology into society which gives newscasters and reporters and analysts things to keep themselves busy. Want a great example?? Here is ANOTHER analyst that is a complete idiot:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060824/190154.shtml

    That's right. Pacman is a dangerous game to play. Just like cell phones are dangerous to have. Maybe it's those microwave rays that are affecting the brainwaves of people, causing them to become insane workaholics. Yeah.... Maybe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    ®idiculous ©rap, 25 Aug 2006 @ 10:54am

    Re: business execs

    Perhaps "addiction" is the wrong word for Crackberries.
    Can we agree that people "rely too much" on CRAPberries, and that its frequently counter-productive.

    I work with several morons who "rely" on a Crapberry and you know what? The device makes those people LESS efficient - they tend to respond to each email two times, or worse they overlook an important task that requires additional follow up.

    Apart from some Network Administrators who actually need a large volume of text-based messages, most business execs would be better served to just go to lunch. Enjoy lunch for an hour. Leave off the email until they're back in the office. It's okay, really, things will continue.

    It's absolutely pointless to send me an email that says 'I'll reply in detail when I get back in the office.'

    Save it.

    How about you just reply when you get back in the office? I know that would be too simple, but that way I won't have to send you a reminder email in 2 days.

    I can't be the only one working with people who have no business spending so much time on their mobile email devices! ...and if they take my stapler, then I'll set the building on fire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Tom O'Leary, 25 Aug 2006 @ 10:55am

    Techdirt Inspiration

    Here is a comic strip inspired by this piece.

    Have a great weekend!

    All the best

    Tom

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Mila, 25 Aug 2006 @ 11:53am

    Re:

    I second that. By using the word "addiction", we instill a feeling of paranoia. Sounds like a good deal for addiction clinics though... not a bad way to get new customers to boost your business!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Medezark, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Buy the Company Line

    Read a definition of addiction.

    Not EVERYONE who uses blackberry's and cell phones is addicted. Just as not all persons who are given morphine for pain become addicted, and not everyone who has indulged in other drugs has become addicted.

    There are people who have become addicted to technology. When someone becomes increasingly nervous and agittated, sometimes to the point of violence, when their mobile communications device does not have signal or the battery runs dead, thats addiction baby. Especially at 9:30 PM and they admit that they aren't really expecting a call or e-mail. And don't say it doesn't happen. I've seen it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    MiniDevil, 25 Aug 2006 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Buy the Company Line

    So if I twist the word addiction in the same way it currently is, it might be an addiction that you are posting a reply at almost 1pm on a workday.

    I agree that there is always an extreme case. But there are extremes for every situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.