Digital technology today is as common as the air we breath. There seems to be no getting around it. More and more we are dependent on technology for communication and entertainment. Its influence in our culture and society have gotten to the point where hospitals are now opening in patient internet addiction programs. CBC news article on September 4th 2013 (http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/yourcommunity/2013/09/us-hospital-to-launch-1st-in-patient-internet-addiction-program.html) gives the following report. I have only included a portion of it here
A psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania will soon open a new in-patient internet addiction program – the first of its kind in the United States or Canada.
Set to launch on Sept. 9 at the Bradford Regional Medical Center in Central Pennsylvania, the 10-day voluntary program will see up to four adult patients at a time living within the hospital’s walls while working to recover from what they say is a debilitating dependence on the web.
Internet addiction has yet to be recognized as an official disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but this makes the compulsion to go online no less real — or damaging — to those who are addicted to the net, according to program founder Dr. Kimberly Young.
“[Internet addiction] is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism,”
how many times have you seen children on the bus or public parks staring at there tablet computers or smart phones. There have been countless times that I have been taking the bus home and seen kids Texting each other and chatting online when they are sitting right next to each other. We cant seem to leave home without our internet service and providers know this and use it to there advantage.
I have an Iphone with Rogers. My wife has a windows phone and my daughter has a android tablet. None of these devices has a mobile internet plan. Rogers has called me at least 3 times since I cancelled my mobile internet plan trying to sell me on internet services. The last time they called me they tried to appeal to my perceived dependency they believe all consumers have by saying things like “you can do your banking or check updates if your not in a WiFi area”. I told them that I’m not so dependent on my connection with the outside world that I need to check my status or do my banking right now. I can wait till I’m in WiFi. It can wait. I don’t even have Facebook app on my phone. In fact I don’t need to check my Facebook status at all on my phone or do my banking or check my email.
Working for a internet provider, when someones internet is not working, in my experience is often the most angry customers I deal with. People get upset when phone or T.V. goes out but they tend to be a lot more hostile and aggressive when the internet goes down. The thought of being without internet is almost unbearable to some. Often I have heard comments like “how can you do this to me” almost as if it were a deliberate attempt to personally inconvenience someone out of spite.
Social networking sites like Facebook offer a variety social networking games like farm-ville and candy crush saga, candy crush like other social networking games give users the option to purchase advancement if you don’t want to wait for your friends to send you help, candy crush has an estimated daily revenue of 633,000/day. Farm-ville no doubt has large revenues as well. That’s $231,045,000 a year and that is just one game. People become so addicted and spend so much time on these games and other digital media content and spend hours upon hours of time in a virtual world with no connection to real people and real life. There virtual games become the controlling factor in there life. They will get up early in the morning just to check the virtual crops. They get upset when there crop withers. They will spend money on a virtual reality instead of on what matters most. Family, friends, life in general
Elder Patrick Kearon a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints has said
“spending too much of our time with social media, celebrity entertainment, news, games, time-hungry activities constitutes a poor digital diet” when we choose to consume the attitudes and opinions of the mass media, we find our values and view points following suite. We tell ourselves that we are not being affected by these messages, but that is not possible”
A recent experience serves as a good example of having a poor digital diet. I was at the baptism of my Aunt recently and had an opportunity to spend some time with family that I don’t normally spend much time with. While at the baptism and during the service 2 people in the row behind me were busy playing with there phones, online games and who knows what else. Later when I had asked how things were going and what is going on in his life, the highlight of recent events was that he bought a new army tank in his virtual game. Here they were attending the baptism of a member of there family. This is an event that is supposed to be special and sacred and representing new birth and a new start in life. A joyous occasion but instead of celebrating with my Aunt they were more concerned with checking the latest updates and playing on there phone. There digital media distracted them from what should of been more important to them, as well as from a big step and huge milestone in the life of my Aunt, whom they were there to celebrate with.
Thats only one exzample of how our digital diets impact our world and our ability to focus on what is important. It’s estimated that 23% of all car accidents are the result of texting, or other phone related distractions, that translates to over 1 million car accidents a year because we cant disconnected from our digital diet. Its ironic that in a time when we are more connected that at any time in world history we are more disconnceted from reality than ever before.
Lets look at some of the ways that our Digital diets are distracting or impeding us from having healthy relationships.
1) eye contact. Knowing when to sustain eye contact and when not to is a vital social skill and tool. But do we know how to do this properly. When our eyes are glued to a computer/tablet/smart phone screen for hours a day we lose and have lost the capacity to hold down a conversation while making eye contact. We see this all the time. I see kids sitting in groups not looking at each other texting and messaging on there phones having no interaction at all. They are so attached to there phones and digital devices they can’t have any social interaction outside there digital world.
2) Phone skills. Many kids these days and alot of adults dont know how to talk on and communication on the phone effectivley. Sure they can text and message, email and all sorts of other things, but put them on the phone and they don’t know what to say. When they try to communicate it almost seems that they don’t know how to communicate there thoughts effectivley. I dont recall the last time I saw a young person actually talking on the phone. I speak to people my own age that can’t seem to articulate there ideas effectlvley over the phone
3) Conversation. When we have a constant compulsion to look at a screen we missed important clues given by the person we are having a conversation with. Have you ever been talking with someone and they are looking at there phone or other digital device seeming unaware that you are talking to them. You are not invested in the current conversation when you can’t see past your digital screen. It becomes quite awkward for some people when they have to actually communicate with someone directley and face to face
4) Spacial awareness. How often do we see people walking around not paying attention to people around them or obstacles in there way. Then there is the one person at the grocery store, standing in the middle of the isle. so focused on there phone or other digital device that everyone is having to navigate around them, completley oblivious to what is going on around them.
5) Attention span. Not everything in life cannot be taken care of in 140 characters or less. But this digital diet that we have has limited out attention spans to the point that we can no longer just sit back and enjoy some things without feeling rushed all the time.
David a bednar of the quorum of the 12 apostles asks these 2 questions
Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the holy ghost?
for many people digital media technology distracts immensly from the spirit and leaves us closed to spritiual expirences and promptings that would otherwise be open to us. In the exzample of the baptism of my aunt would the person in the row behind me been able to fully appreciated and feel the spirit of the event. I see people at church that are not really at church
Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge our restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?
There have been countless storys of digital media resulting in people not living and impacting other people lives in a negative way. It can be harmfull to others and as mentioned earlier has been the cause of many accidents which lead to heartache and misery. Can we truly serve in meaningful ways if we are attached to our digital devices?
I would add one question to this list. Does the use of technology distract from your ability to focus on what is most important to you such as family and your children?
There have been news storys like the one found here http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20021079-504083.html?vm=r, of mothers who have killed there children because a game of farmville became more important than the welfare of there children. while this story was from 3 years ago its no less real or relavant today and only continues to get worse.
In all of this I dont wish to leave the idea that digital media is bad, or some kind of curse or plague on society. Our mass depedency and addiction to it has some serious negative consequences.
Despite this it is also important to realized that digital media can be used for good when used properly and effectively. This blog is an exzample of good use of digital media. Digital media can be used to be a very effective tool to communicate ideas and promote discussion of social issues or to just have fun and enjoy our time. Services like facebook, twitter, instagram, tubmler, linkedin all can have a positive influence on our lives when used properly and don’t become the controlling factor in our lives. Digital media has changed the way we intereact with each other and communicate with each other. Like with many things a steady diet of one thing over other good things can lead to heartached and problems. Digital media in proper moderation can and will bennefit ourselves, our familys and all those we love.
We are blessed to have the technologys we have today. They can be a powerfull force for good, or a powerfull force for evil. I believe God would have us use it for good. Lets use it to promote good and help not hinder our relationships. Family’s are our priority lets use it in proper ways so that others do not suffer due to our neglect. Digital media is a tool to improve our lives, lets use it rather than having it use us.