Have you got an iDisorder? I heard an interesting conversation with psychologist Dr Larry Rosen on All in the Mind, Radio National this morning. (Stay At Home Mum Geek, I know). The gist of an iDisorder is that our brains are being negatively impacted by the excessive use of technology and social media. Signs and symptoms of an iDisorder include:
* Reaching for your smartphone every five to ten minutes even though you know it will vibrate when you receive a new email or message
* Spending more than two hours at a time on the computer
* Checking Facebook repeatedly throughout the day for new status updates of people you don’t know personally.
Rosen was saying that people are tending towards technology related anxiety. Brain imaging shows that our brains are hyper-active when using certain technologies and behaviours have anxious qualities. Brain-imaging shows that our brains are much more active when using Google than when reading a novel (maybe this is a good thing). When using Facebook, brain-imaging shows that dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is a pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. It is also released in the brain during additive behaviours like drinking, smoking and taking drugs. Dopamine release gives our brains a positive message, so we continue with the addictive behaviour.
I always felt that Facebook, particularly, was addictive. I find myself checking for status updates of people I barely know throughout the day. Particularly when I use the computer at night, I feel hyper-active. The world of blogs, status updates and images whirs through my brain, and I lie awake, stimulated. Although it is mild and doesn’t inhibit my life, my addiction has definitely germinated. All that holds it back is a lousy Internet (Optus Wireless) connection.
Rosen recommended strategies for minimising anxiety and other iDisorders when using technology. Strategies like stepping away from the computer every two hours to reset the brain with an activity like going for a walk, interacting with a ‘real’ person or simply gazing out to window to day dream. He also suggested pausing before you post a status update or an email. Write it, then step away and reflect for ten minutes. Come back and reread your message. Does it say what you want it to say? Does it portray the You you want to portray?
Is this the life of a Stay At Home Mum? Reaching for her smartphone a thousand times a day… Checking Facebook status updates all through the day, desperate not to miss a beat…Photographing every move her child makes using an iPhone and doing something funky with the photo using Instagram…Pinning morning, noon and night?
I must admit that technology certainly improves the stay-at-home life. Once hard-working, socially engaged intellectuals, us Stay At Homes stimulate our brains between nappy changes. We grasp at social networking groups and pages aimed at mothers – places we can share anonymously the woes of motherhood and dirty dishes. We blog. We forum. We pin. Technology is a launch pad for millions of home-run businesses keeping pockets full and creative juices flowing.
Rosen warns that we are at a precipice – we need to stop and become conscious of the influence technology has over our lives, behaviours and brain activity, while appreciating all that technology has to offer. Otherwise, as a society, iDisorders will consume us and determine us.
What do you reckon? Does technology improve life? Do you feel you are at the precipice of an iDisorder? Do you need to implement strategies to maintain psychology health? How does technology make you feel? Are you an iMum?