The ubiquitous barrage of battery-powered stimuli delivered by phones, computers, and games makes “the chaos of constant connection” an addictive electronic narcotic. As continuous stimulation becomes the new normal, “gaps between moments of heightened stimulation” are disappearing; amusement “has squeezed the boredom out of life.” For the hyperstimulated, “the synaptic mindscape of daily life” becomes all peaks and no valleys.
That quote comes from an article by George Will that my dad emailed to me over the weekend, Boredom and the Costs of Constant Connection. If you haven’t already read the article, I highly suggest that you do.
Will’s article is just the latest in an onslaught of data that has been streaming forth over the last few months talking about the hazards of being continually “plugged in.” It’s obviously a very important topic to me as I have spent the last two posts addressing issues of identity and boundaries in a culture that constantly feels the need to be plugged in, Is Your True Sense Of Self And Identity At Risk As You Navigate An Online World? and Setting Boundaries With Technology Can Help You Maintain Your Sense Of Self And Identity.
If you set boundaries, or keep yourself from continually being plugged in, you will be swimming upstream in this culture it seems. Very few people encourage it, and I think even fewer take the time to thoughtfully reflect on how their constant need for stimulation is impacting them.
The article spends a lot of time talking about the impact constant contact with technology has on adolescent boys, often carrying over to men in adulthood. I concur with the findings as here are three very common findings on find in my own therapy practice.
- Men who continue to carry over into adulthood from adolescence their addiction, or high volume usage of video games. Not only does the time it take to play the games often take the form of neglect in their marriages, family, and friendships, but these men tend to lack some of the social skills and boundary setting of their counterparts. Some guys will wait longer in line for the release of a new video game than they will talking to their wife that week.
- Boys whose parents continue to search for a cure for their ADHD and ADD in the form of meds, but do little to help restrict or boundary their kid’s use of technological stimulants.
Cox doubts it is a mere coincidence that “the stratospheric increase in diagnosed learning and attention deficits” has correlated with “the advent of the electronic playground.” When so many Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, it “is arguably no longer a disorder at all—it’s just the way we are.”
- Couples who come into therapy and are bored with their marriage, yet seek comfort, affirmation, encouragement through the use of technology (FB, text, blog, Twitter, etc), rather than doing the hard work of putting restrictions on their technological use and putting effort into face to face time with their partner.
If you are wondering whether or not your need to constantly look at your phone, play video games, and surf the web is impacting you, I leave you with this statement…..wow!
“Unlike reading and listening to stories,” Cox warns, “the blitz of electronica doesn’t build deeper listening skills or a greater range of emotional expression.” Self-absorption, particularly among young males, may be the greatest danger of immersion in the bath of digital amusement: “Not only does withdrawal into electronica enable them to bypass the confusion and pain of trying to give their emotions some coherence, it also helps them avoid the realities of being a flawed, vulnerable, ordinary human being.” So “the silent, sullen boy at the mall’s game store may be next in line for an underemployed, lonely adulthood if we don’t teach him how to maintain effective social contacts with others.”