Monday, November 28, 2011

iDisorder Symptoms, and How to Detox

Do you have an iDisorder? Check out the symptoms and how to detox,  according to Professor Larry Rosen of California State University, Dominguez Hills, an expert in the field of the psychology of technology and the author of numerous books on that subject:

"Many people today live in a state of “artificial urgency.” You perceive you must react quickly because technology delivers information and messages quickly. “If you are obsessed with your device," says Rosen, "you don’t pay attention to your responsibilities at work, in the family, or even your social life.”
Rosen believes many of us are on the verge of what he calls an “iDisorder” — the “media technologies that we interact with may be imbuing us with signs and symptoms of one of many psychological disorders.” These include conditions such as attention deficit disorder, narcissism, and social phobia. 
These are symptoms Rosen has identified as showing your tech habits might be unhealthy:
               You can’t go more than a few minutes without checking your smartphone for email or texts.
               You log onto Facebook many times a day so you won’t miss an “important” post.
               You feel your phone vibrate and whip it out of your pocket and discover it was a case of “phantom pocket vibration syndrome.
               You excuse yourself to the restroom specifically to check in with your online world.
               You sleep with your cell phone next to you and say you are using it as an alarm when, really, you want to be able to check texts that come in during the night.
How to detox from technology
Most people can benefit from stepping back. Start with 15 minutes of going without checking emails, texts, or social networking sites. Then enjoy using your tech toys for a one-minute "tech break" — a time to use technology. As you discover you aren’t going to miss anything drastically important and start to feel more at ease and focused, you can increase the time between tech breaks.
For kids, Rosen says, “The genie is out of the bottle. We are long past changing our childrens’ distractible behavior.” He cites a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project that found even when schools ban cell phones nearly half of teens still send at least one text during class every day.
Rather than fighting kids' compulsion to be connected, Rosen says it’s more productive to help them gradually expand the time they can stay focused on something other than their mobile device or computer. For example, ask your child or teen to put down their device during a family meal but assure them that they can have a one-minute tech break every 15 minutes afterwards.
Gradually increase the time between tech breaks. Rosen says this strategy is even being implemented in schools where some kids’ anxiety about checking their devices can make it difficult for them to focus in class. 
Time outdoors resets the brain
Another strategy Rosen recommends is taking a nature break or 15-minute walk outdoors. Using MRIs, researchers at UCLA have shown that using the Internet or playing videos games creates a heightened level of neural activity in the brain. While this can increase a person’s multitasking ability, Dr. Gary Small, the author of the study, suspects it also disconnects us from other people.
As an antidote, Rosen points to research out of the University of Michigan that shows taking a nature break “calms the mind and resets brain physiology.” Nature breaks don’t work as well in urban environments with lots of stimuli, but it turns out that looking at photographs of natural environments has a similar calming effect on the brain — as long as one has put aside their technological devices.
While technology has many benefits, texting and Web surfing can become the equivalent of junk food — a quick, unhealthy fix that replaces something more nourishing. If you find that your personal relationships don’t seem as rich as they once were or that your mind is buzzing and unfocused, you might want to evaluate your use of technology and try one of these detox techniques.

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