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Face the Facts: We Are All Headed For an iDisorder

Face the Facts: We Are All Headed For an iDisorder


    (Editor’s note: The following is an article written by Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., author of the book iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us. Rosen is past Chair and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a research psychologist and computer educator, and is recognized as an international expert in the “Psychology of Technology.” Over the past 25 years, Dr. Rosen and his colleagues have examined reactions to technology among more than 30,000 children, teens, college students, and adults in the United States and in 23 other countries. He has been quoted in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, CNN, and Good Morning America and writes a regular blog for Psychology Today. You can learn more about Rosen’s new book here.)

    It should come as no surprise that we are all hopelessly addicted to our devices, particularly our smartphones. Why shouldn’t we be? We are now able to carry a powerful computer around 24/7 in our pocket or purse. The new “WWW” really means “Whatever, Wherever, Whenever.” And we are all succumbing to its draw. Just look at any restaurant table and you will see phones sitting next to forks and knives. It is normal to see someone pick up a smartphone, tap tap tap and put it back down while in the middle of talking. Is this healthy or are we all headed down a slippery slope toward what I call an “iDisorder.”

    An iDisorder is where you exhibit signs and symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as OCD, narcissism, addiction or even ADHD, which are manifested through your use — or overuse — of technology. Whether our use of technology makes us exhibit these signs or simply exacerbates our natural tendencies is an open question, but the fact is we are all acting as though we are potentially diagnosable.

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    Several recent studies from my lab highlight some of these issues. In one anonymous online survey of more than 1,000 Americans we found that more than half of teenagers and young adults of the iGeneration (born in the 1990s) and the Net Generation (born in the 1980s) told us that they became anxious if they couldn’t check their text messages all day long. And text they do! According to the Nielsen Company the “typical” teen sends and receives 3,417 text messages per month. Teen girls top that with nearly 4,000 per month! If the teens sleep 8 hours a night (which is an hour less than recommended) that’s between 7 and 8 text messages per waking hour.

    The study also showed us that the majority of teens and young adults check their texts and Facebook several times a day. And most of that is on their mobile device, on the go. How about sleep? In one study of 300 high school students, the average teen slept only 6 hours per school night. They tried to make up for it by sleeping more than 10 hours each weekend night but it still all averaged out to only 7 hours per night leaving a weekly 14-hour sleep debt. Eight in 10 of those students told us that they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep during the week. They must be studying so hard that they don’t have time for sleep.

    Well, yes and no.

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    They are studying but the number one activity in the last hour before sleep is surfing the Internet followed by studying, texting and social networking. Are they simply glued to their laptops? Nope! It is their smartphone that is the cause of much of their sleep debt. Not only is it used instead of a computer, but most teens sleep with it on vibrate or tone and one in four are awakened at night by a text or email that they respond to before attempting to fall back asleep. And most of those activities are done either at the same time or by rapidly switching back and forth. We all multitask — well we are really task switching — and the younger generations do it more but we are all succumbing to the allure of clicking and switching.

    It’s not just the younger generations who are inundated by technology. One in three Gen Xers and one in six Baby Boomers check their devices all the time. They may not be texting as much but they are constantly checking in with websites, email and other cyberactivities.

    Our most surprising study examined a thousand teens and adults to see whether technology use might be related to signs and symptoms of psychiatric disorders. The short answer is YES. For each generation, regardless of ethnic background, socioeconomic status, or gender, the more certain technologies are used the more likely it is that the person will exhibit these signs. Different technologies appear to be predictive of different signs. One of the major culprits is social networking, which is a predictor of many disorders.

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    Do we need to take a permanent holiday from our technology or is there an iCure for an iDisorder? The outlook is very positive if we recognize the signs and learn to take small steps to keep our brains healthy and sane. Here are sample strategies. More can be found in my new book, iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us.

    Social networking can be all about “ME” and it can make us appear narcissistic. I advocate using an “e-waiting” period between writing any post, email, text or comment and pressing the key that offers it to the world. Take a couple of minutes, do something else, and then come back and count the times you use me or I compared to the number of times you use we, us, they or other inclusive pronouns. One of the signs of narcissism is a focus on the self and our specialness.

    At the dinner table declare a “tech break” at the beginning of the meal and have everyone check their phones for a minute and then silence them and place them upside down on the table. Now talk for 15 minutes followed by someone declaring another “tech break.” The upside down silent phone is a stimulus that says, “Don’t worry – you can check me soon.” This stops the brain from obsessing about every little e-communication.

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    Using technology evokes excessive mental activity so much so that our brains are all abuzz all day long. Your brain needs periodic resetting. This doesn’t take a lot of time. Fifteen minutes of walking through nature (or even looking at a nature picture book), doing puzzles, or talking to someone about something fun and positive are just a few ways to reset your brain. Consider doing one of these activities every few hours to calm the brain and stop the potential iDisorder.

    There is no turning back. We live in a connected world and we are better because of it. We know more than ever before and we are more social than ever before. But we have to learn to take care of our brains to avoid an iDisorder. Don’t blame Steve Jobs for your compulsions. Take control and do something good for your brain. You will be a better person for it and have better relationships with those around you.

    (Photo credit: Young Man Chained to Computer via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 9, 2018

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

    Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

    If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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    A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

    So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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    For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

    Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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    To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

    1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
    2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
    3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
    4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
    5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

    If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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    Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

    Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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