Digital Devices: Friend or Foe ?

We live in a world that is more interconnected than ever before. Wireless mobile communication devices structure our daily use of time and space, enhancing our communication possibilities. What are the implications of this on our daily lives ?

A connected world

We all know the feeling. You’re sat enjoying the luxurious delights of the best Danish cuisine has to offer at a dinner with your friends when all of a sudden your Smartphone begins to vibrate aggressively in your pocket. Your concentration on the conversation you’re heartily engaged in slips initially, then comes back on again as you decide not to take the incoming call. Several vibes later and you’re forced to abandon the conversation as the thought that it may be an important call overcomes the need for your to chat with those around you. Let’s assume, however, that you don’t pick up- the conversation continues. Everything is normal again bar the fact that you’re itching to find out who it was that called and what they wanted. The itch to update your Facebook, check your mail, share a photo from tonight’s dinner or simply check the train schedule for how to get home may also linger in the back of your mind all through the dinner conversation, whether or not your Smartphone vibrates in your pocket. In short, for many today, an attachment to smart phones and other digital communication devices is something of a daily fix; an addiction that renders us at the disposal of such devices . Of course, we could just turn them all off, or could we?

multitasking1

The world of the eager multi-tasker: We are merely a stone-throw away from thousands of communication possibilities.PHOTO:NewMedia Comm 2012

Fact or Fiction ?

Mobile phones and other digital communication devices constitute an important part of our daily lives. The manner in which we structure our use of time and space in the environment we find ourselves in is in fact highly dependent of our use of digital communication devices, or at least this is the case for most people. A 2012 report by the International Telecommunication Union ranks Denmark as number two in the world when it comes to the number of active internet users per capita. Reinforcing such supremacy, independent statistics from the world competitiveness book place Denmark at the top of the list in terms of the number of broadband users per capita. We are, in this sense, a connected nation. Ours is a state in which most men, women and children have unrestricted access to internet resources and indeed a state where communication on a non face-to-face premises is high. Now why would any of this possibly be a problem you might ask ? After all, being able to text your cousin “Happy Birthday” whilst browsing through last night’s pictures from the party and sharing them on your social networks whilst checking the weather for your trip tomorrow all at the same time can only be a good thing, right ? According to American research psychologist Dr Rosen, the multi-tasking, constantly on-the-go lifestyle that accompanies and is partially facilitated by the daily use of numerous wireless mobile communication devices. Rosen suggests that such a lifestyle and indeed the reliance on wireless mobile communication devices that many of us have is one of the largest non-drug addictions of our time, and like any addiction it has several worrying downsides. As we become less socially adept and more reliant on non-face-to-face encounters for our daily communication, a new raft of psychological challenges arise, ranging from milder conditions such as procrastination to more serious diseases such as Cyberchrondria to the now well-known condition, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Akin to hypochondria, Cyberchondria is a psychological disorder whereby those affected develop a compulsive need to troubleshoot numerous disease symptoms online for fear of contracting a disease whilst FOMO is a condition whose victims suffer from a constant and uncontrollable need to constantly seek attention. If Rosen’s position is to believed, excessive wireless mobile communication devices can also catalyze or trigger psychological conditions that may not have developed independently without an overuse of digital devices, an assertion that raises severe doubts over the use of the tools we use to communicate with each other.

facebook-addiction

Facebook, What’s App, Instagram, Hipstamatic, Viber, Smart phones and other degital devices. Advanced communication tools, but does it sometimes get a bit too much? PHOTO: Karmn Irvan

Addict or user ?

With such worrying claims, it is easy for one to detach from the perks of living in a society with infinite communication possibilities. Luckily though, many of the psychological consequences of using wireless mobile communication devices stem from an overuse of such devices. Like excessive money-making, material accumulations, thrill-seeking or other modern-day non-drug addictions, excessive wireless mobile communication device use is not without its perils. Acknowledging the numerous merits that being able to communicate with each other using technologies such as Facebook, smart phones, widgets, apps and many more media presents to society is necessary. Similarly, it is is important to recognise the need for one to take a break from using wireless communication devices every now and again. Taking a tech- or plugging-off every now and again and spending some real, non-digitalized time with family and friends is one way of balancing the scales when it comes to using one’s digital devices and the ultimate choice is up to the individual. Are you an addict or just another content user of modern-day technology ?

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