Thursday, April 12, 2012

iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us

By Larry Rosen
New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012
242 pages     Nonfiction

I have a morning routine. I check my cell phone for messages. Then I go to my computer to check out my email (I haven’t yet gotten a smart phone). Then I check Facebook and my usual array of website updates like Google News and Shelf Awareness. I play Words with Friends for a while. Then I settle down for business. Am I addicted? Probably at this point I am only addicted to Words with Friends which I play on my tablet with several random opponents daily. Oh—and I also play against my sister on Facebook. I may only have 6-8 games going at once. Is that an addiction?

Larry Rosen and associates believe that in our overuse of technology, we (and by that I mean a large amount of the population) exhibit symptoms of serious psychological disorders. He says: “The argument that I will make is that overreliance on gadgets and websites has created an enmeshed relationship with technology and that this relationship can cause significant problems in our psyche, what I call an iDisorder.”

He suggests that even though we most likely cannot give up our technology, we can be very aware of the possibilities for emotional dependence, voyeurism, narcissism, etc. that too much of a good thing can breed. It seems likely that people who are overly dependent on technology have experienced these symptoms in other settings, but they are exacerbated through the technology.

For instance, people who post excessively on Facebook may have already exhibited narcissistic tendencies, but Facebook and other social media give them an outlet for the disorder. I have a nephew who quit Facebook abruptly—he decided it was just taking too much time and he was too emotionally involved in it and was experiencing some narcissistic tendencies related to posting good pictures of himself which he changed frequently. His sister, on the other hand, started experiencing strange and debilitating physical symptoms which landed her in the hospital. Her Facebook posts from the hospital gave her a much needed emotional outlet and rallied a huge cadre of friends offering support. 

I read the chapter about obsessively checking technology with great interest, because as I mentioned, I was starting to find some obsessive behavior related to keeping up with my technology. I am not an obsessive person by any means, so I am surprised by my own behavior. “Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety,” Rosen says. I have found that my behavior changed when I got my tablet. Now, I am not obsessively tied to my desk. I can take my obsession with me! 

On the other hand, I have become acquainted with several students from Saudi Arabia. They are totally linked to their smart phones. It connects them with their friends at home, their language, and their families. I have a feeling that it is extremely comforting to talk to their parents via Skype, or even just to look at postings in their familiar Arabic. I believe this is why Rosen says that we have to figure out how to manage our technology, because it is too valuable to give up. 

The Kirkus reviewer says the book may be “a bit overstated, but a clear warning against becoming someone who brings a smartphone to the dinner table.”  Excuse me. I’ve got to check to see if any of my Words with Friends opponents have played a word!

Here is an interesting article by Larry Rosen:
Larry Rosen’s website:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

technology can be good and bad, my father ties his obsession with sports to technology