There is a great deal of conversation about the addictiveness of Facebook in particular, among all of Earth's inhabitants who call Facebook their social home. But beyond Facebook, a growing (physical) attachment to devices is 'epidemic'.
Welcome to the 21st Century! Now we are all connected, popping up with our likes and interests on our friends' Androids and iPads and B-Berries. How does our experience differ?
DEVICES. We love them or hate them. Some don't even notice or pay much attention to the hardware. Some breathe Glass. "It's all about the Apps". And lifestyle. Friends? There's an app for that. Just follow our focus, minute by minute - where does it go? 'Devices'. Where to charge? What to download? What to condense into a tweet? Checking texts, checking Facebook, checking in on Foursquare or responding to Facebook's asking, 'What's happening?' - all via our trusty device. Are they our tools still, or have they become our master?
And, you might ask, what about the telephone? Of course today's 'devices' may have begun as phones, but today not every generation enjoys the telephone, some having strong preferences for texting/SMS/videochat, and still others routinely work and communicate from old-fashioned computers with keyboards and monitors.
[See this report
on generational differences.]
Freud spoke of people becoming 'neurotic' due to internal battles and spoke of 'hysterical conversion', a process through which people externalize their symptoms or dramatize unconscious drives while seemingly remaining unaware of their 'projection', 'symptom displacement', etc.
All ways to fend off evil thoughts or memories. To repress, suppress, or leak
And today, who has time or focus for thinking or memorizing? 140 characters or 140 milliseconds maximum attention span. It's the rule.
Freud described 'cathexis' as a dynamic whereby we assign and attach ('cathect') importance to 'objects' and direct our energies towards them. [The object relations & psychoanalytic crowd might also speak of 'displacement', and see the objects as symbolic representations of someone or something else, but that's for another discussion.]
Fast forward: Today's new appendages - devices - offer gratification on demand. And - 24/7 - we live in a virtual candy store full of sweet distractions.
The connection (no pun intended) is this: Freud said that objects are represented in our obsessions, dreams, and our internal representations of people, be it emotional or sexual objectification or directed at only a 'part object' ... I'll stop the advanced psychology lecture here, from about the time, historically, that Psychoanalytic Theory was being impacted by Ego and Interpersonal and Humanistic Psychology. It all comes down to our drives and needs and wishes, and how we fulfill them. From a behavioral perspective, we are reinforced for our actions while distractions may offer welcome avoidance of 'aversive stimuli'.
In sum, in the classical psychodynamic lingo, MANY people 'become cathected to', or 'cathect to' items with 'neurotic' devotion. A style of clothes. A certain look. A certain thing. They may become the focus of all sorts of devotion, fulfilling a need, as well as bringing pleasure - and perhaps serving as a faithful companion second only to the canine, feline, or human companion.
What about the (ha ha) 'geek' or 'nerd' who has 3 of the latest everything, or the one who quit his/her job to have sufficient time for gaming? OK, that's extreme. And constant tweeting? Check-ins? Relations - face to face, in realtime - at the dinner table? It is easy to be hypnotized by all the adverts, or to fall victim to peer pressure - the NEW peer pressure: social media. (That term is the American version - while the rest of the world knows it by what it has largely become: 'social *marketing*, whereby 'likes' are sold to 'friends', and perhaps 'crowd-sourced' too.)
It is the social interaction which leads many to prefer or avoid things like a telephone. (See Larry Rosen's PokeMe for a look at generational differences.) It's the app that appeals, and devices may be just that, or a way of life - for example, Facebook. There's a wide spectrum ranging from self-help and social or recreational platforms and apps, something for anyone, 24/7. Or as-needed. For some the phone is just a tool. For others it is a lifeline. Some live their lives on the device. It reflects the owner's needs. And images. And brands. And likes. And location. And... distraction attraction.
In the end, a device is just a device, a tool. It can be neuroticized, 'obsessed' over, or an invisible enabler of 'addiction' to all that it reliably offers. 24/7. 365. [Insert favorite cartoon here!] It's when we become the slave rather than master of our devices, I refer to 'device devotion'. Or disruption. Larry Rosen references our 'weapons of mass distraction'. Maybe a bit of 'mass hysteria' and 'a war for mass consumption'?
People (and telcos and merchants) sure do love our devices! It may be hard to see from inside the forest. Context and perspective matter.
Has 'social media' become today's new 'peer pressure' on steroids? Are we so devoted to focus-free that we accept highway deaths and high error rates /low productivity due to the myth of 'multi-tasking'? Might we be victims of 'cognitive dissonance', where we love our devices unconditionally or admit there may be more than devotion?
There is a *lot* of 'device devotion' out there! Here are but a few observations about the interface between people and their devices.
Meanwhile, here are a few interesting bits of video &/or text reports which resonate with
those of us who have seen the days of device devotion, pre and post-Millennium. How social has exploded and turned us into device devotees. Salespeople. Marketers. Endorsers. Friends. Followers. A bit like "Friends, Romans, Countrymen... Lend me your likes". Our whole shared planet is networked, socially and informationally. (See the video below for an interesting and brief talk on this aspect.) Cultures may vary, as does the form and extent of Device Devotion. But many suffer consequences from excessive 'distraction attraction'. So little time here and now.
Hopefully coming soon, watch this space for announcement of a book by this page's name: Device Devotion. Meanwhile, live life, disconnect the wires and networks to de-stress and smell the ... essence of life, social and otherwise. Balance and integration. Life is not about the devices and friend counts. Not even followers! Or tweets. Or how big your screen or sound is. Oh, device.....
Step Away From the Phone!
Trying to break the habit, at work and throughout the day.
(Note: it is more than just a 'phone' these days! It's an all-in-one instant-gratifier and constant distraction &/or preoccupation. - maf)
NY Times, 22 Sep 2013
A report on the new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics which proposes family 'media plans', given how "exposure to TV, smartphones, computers, tablets, and all forms of social media play a dominant role in the lives of American kids and teens..." - and adults too! Includes several resources including a link to healthychildren.org where one can learn How to Make a Family Media Use Plan.
While technology is increasingly important in relationship formation, "the lack of direct, authentic, real human interaction where people can look each other in the eye and hear each other's voices" presents some challenges to deep (f2f) relationships. Included here is a video which seems to have hit a nerve among many, and offers a quick peak into our world of device love and 'parallel play' trumping f2f one-to-one quality conversation.
Finally, expanding the focus a bit to explore further implications of our lives becoming public and digitalized, and technology now doing jobs formerly done by humans, here is a video essay on PBS's Making Sense series, featuring tech guru (and humanist/musician) Jaron Lanier. PBS NewsHour, 17 Jun 2013