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Taxing Tweets: When Technology Dependence Takes Over

MoreSatisfyingPhotos.com, flickr

Addiction specialists are seeing a new spike in patients with an over-dependence on technology.

Doctor Gregory Jantz, author of “#Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology and Social Networking,” says people are allowing technology to pervade their lives, creating online personas that paint their worlds differently.

“If you look at my Facebook page, I’m perfect,” Jantz said. “I always present what’s best, right? As we all do.But, we began to create an illusion of what reality is, so we just need to be aware and learn how to create balance to use technology in a good way.”

He says technology can be easily controlled, but when people begin to focus more on their virtual lives, their real-life connections begin to suffer. In some cases, people may forget what “normal” feels like.

Technophiles who are overly-connected also tend to perform worse on recall tests than their less connected peers.

“We have the heavy multi-tasker; the person that thinks they can do everything all at once and maintain that throughout the day. When later asked for recall, they actually scored rather poorly. Multitasking in some ways is somewhat of a myth, because they’ve developed partial attention, so they’re giving partial attention to everything.”

So, the easiest thing to do is to take the technology away, right?

kevin dooley, flickr

Yes, but it’s difficult. When the devices are taken away, withdrawal symptoms are the same as those suffering from other disorders, including depression and eating disorders.

“They turn in all their screen devices and by day two, many folks are having what we call classic withdrawal symptoms,” Jantz said. “A little sweaty palms, a little anxiousness, a little racing heart because they’re going through withdrawal. That’s called addiction.”

Jantz says the easiest way to break tech-dependence is by simply focusing on real life and personal relationships, rather than those online. Parents should also work with their children to avoid becoming technology-dependent.

“At age 12 and 13, we develop what is called abstract thinking,” Jantz said. “Abstract thinking means that I understand my behavior today may affect my future. This is interesting because a lot of people are sending out a lot of texts and twittering, and so forth, as though they’ve tossed out their abstract thinking. We see a lot of people dealing with regret.”

Jantz says impulse control should be among the first lessons kids learn when dealing with social media and texting with technology.

“People develop what I call ‘low impulse control,’” Jantz said. “They become very impulsive. They’ll send out a tweet on Twitter and we see all kinds of problems because they’re impulsive and don’t always think through that that tweet may have some serious implications. How many times have we seen that, even with the recent Olympics?”

As technology continues to evolve, social media will also continue to expand. What comes with that expansion, though, remains to be seen.

For more information, or to order a copy of Dr. Jantz’s book, click here.

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