It’s a worldwide mental, physical and social crisis.
It affects virtually every age and socioeconomic group across the globe.
Its debilitating, toxic effects leave no country, no corner of the world, unscathed.
It dually fits the definition of both an addiction and an epidemic, but no drug or 12-step program yet exists to control its wildfire-like spread.
Its the world’s addiction to hi-tech.
The staggering statistics underscoring the ills of alcoholism, opioid abuse, smoking and other modern day addictions, pale in comparison to the depth, range and impact of the hi-tech addiction gripping the world today.
From rich to poor, all races and creeds, educated to uneducated, from two-year-olds to 90-year-olds, more and more of our conscious selves is controlled by our technology, especially that small device that fits in the palm of one’s hand.
There are 7.7 billion people living on planet earth today and nearly 9 billion mobile phone connections, according to bankycell.com data. And 66 percent of the world’s population are unique cell phone users.
THE GAME CHANGER: SMART PHONES
The portability and affordability of the smart phone – for most the gateway to accessing technology that can guide, govern and determine actions ranging from the mundane to redefining what it means to be human – is key to the fast rise of this global epidemic we call, “HI-TECH HEROIN.”
Before iPads, smartphones and related technology became mainstream barely a decade ago, there were virtually no studies or analyses that examined how use of these devices would alter the human experience.
There was no way to accurately anticipate how chronic smartphone and other digital technology use would lead to addictive behaviors that would not only increasingly rob us of our humanity, but put the control of how we govern our own lives in the hands of those who created the technology and the corporations and governments who bought it, sold it and shaped it to their interests.
Only now is research catching up to the societal, psychological and emotional ill effects of digital addiction. This technological revolution is not a generation old, yet the unprecedented speed at which technological advances make it to market challenges researchers to gauge and anticipate its impact.
THOSE BLESSED GEEKS
In what is still the early stages of an epic and rapidly accelerating technological revolution, we are declaring the geeks, the most anti-social segments of society, the owners of the present and especially the future.
In making “Blessed Are The Geeks,” a Top Trend for 2019, we wrote:
“The blessed Geeks have transformed every aspect of 21st century life, and it’s just the beginning. There is virtually no corner of human existence that has not been directly and powerfully affected by the Geek created techno-world. In 2019, the Blessed Geeks celebrate their overturn of the human experience. The generation now entering adulthood, is primed to engage these fast-evolving technologies across every aspect of their lives.”
Today, now numerous studies are confirming the damaging social and psychological dangers of “HI-TECH HEROIN.” The personal freedom consumers were promised through this wondrous technology has turned on them, making them slaves to the technology they can’t live without.
CONSUMED, CONTROLLED BY TECH
According to Psychology Today, 40 percent of the American population is clinically addicted to smart phones. Moreover, 48 percent of men and 47 percent of women who are addicted live with Nomophobia, a fear of losing or not having their cell phone.
The addiction is characterized by these traits:
An incessant need to be connected to the technology during all waking hours.
Many HI-TECH HEROIN addicts sleep with their cell phone within grabbing range and/or use a mobile device while in the bathroom.
They use this technology to increasingly avoid person-to-person social situations and instead engage through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other number of social platforms.
Addicts play online games for hours each day and when they’re forced to stop playing games, they experience anxiety, make that withdrawal.
GEN Z: THE FUTURE OF HI-TECH HEROIN
To understand how this addiction will evolve in the years ahead, we need look no further than Generation Z, those born roughly between 1995 and 2005, and the first generation to grow up not knowing a world without digital devices.
Generation Z spends an average of 3 hours 38 minutes online on smartphones, almost 50 minutes longer than the average Internet user. They were born into a world with around the clock access to that super computer in the sky from the palm of their hands. As a result, they communicate, make decisions, learn, engage, buy, sell and navigate their world by pecking away on their iPhone.
According to Pew Center data:
- 81 percent of Zers say text messaging is their top mobile phone activity.
- More than 50 percent are downloading apps, playing preinstalled games and mobile internet/accessing websites.
- Another 46 percent are video calling.
- 66 percent of Generation Z lists gaming as their main hobby.
- 92 percent of Generation Z college students have access to Netflix and 38 percent of Generation Z consume daily video via Netflix.
- 91 percent of Generation Z have their digital devices in bed in the evening.
- To further show the HI-TECH Heroin effects, 40 percent of Generation Z say working Wi-Fi is more important to them than working bathrooms. And over 30 percent would rather go three days without a shower than go a week without their phone.
BAD FOR THE BRAIN, SPIRIT AND BODY
The most significant health hazards emerging from this tech-dominated world are related to the effects on bio chemistry, immune-system response, and DNA replication in humans.
Of particular concern is the safety guidelines governing the expansion of 5G are based on a 1996 study of the extent to which a cell phone heated the head of a plastic mannequin, even though hundreds of studies worldwide are showing that the health hazards of cell phone technology are massive. (see story on page 12 to understand how this technology damages not only individual health but the environment’s as well.)
Beyond bodily health hazards, the danger of tech addictions are now making their way into mental health lexicon, helping professionals to identify and classify various types of tech addiction.
For example, the World Health Organization has labeled video/digital game addictions a mental health disorder: “… a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” so severe it “takes precedence over other life interests”.
The WHO designation is the first to officially identify an aspect of excessive technological dependence as a mental health disorder, though in just the last five years, there has been an explosion of studies and warnings demonstrating the growing dangers of HI-TECH HEROIN.
A study by the Common Sense Media Center found that 26 percent of parents of teens said they used a mobile device, within five minutes of going to sleep, and acknowledged waking up to check the device at least once during the night. The rates were higher among teenagers: 40 percent said they used a device within five minutes of going to sleep; 36 percent admitted to waking up to check a device; and 32 percent said they used a device within five minutes of waking up.
THE DEATH OF SEX
Just as alcoholics and drug addicts have less sex, so do hi-tech abusers.
The Archives of Sexual Behavior reports that millennials in their 20’s and 30’s in the U.S., along with teenage Generation Z are having sex less often than their parents and grandparents did wh
en they were young.
The trend follows studies worldwide, including Great Britain, Finland, Sweden, Holland, Japan, and Australia, demonstrating how technology addiction is wiping away the need for human contact, including intimate relationships.
Half of 20-somethings in the U.S. have not had sex in the last year; one in three have never had sex.
And the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey finds that the percentage of high-school students who’d had intercourse dropped from 54 to 40 percent in just the last five years.
LAZY, FAT AND SICK
Another health hazard: dozens of studies are now showing that obsessions with digital devices has users sitting down more often, exercising less and developing poor eating habits.
One study, by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), found that between 2007 and 2015 the amount of time teens and adults spent in front of a computer screen remained essentially flat. But in 2016 one hour more was spent watching videos, texting, googling, etc. than in 2007.
New data show that for the first time, consumers in the U.S. will spend more time on their smart phones or similar devices than watching TV.
And numerous studies are correlating these behavioral patterns with increased rates of cardiovascular diseases, chronic fatigue, depression and more. TJ
The HI-TECH HEROIN trend will only grow. In identifying GEN Z = GEN ZERO as a top trend for 2019, we wrote: “What will define this generation is its over reliance on digital communication, missing opportunities for self-expression, creative thinking and collaborative endeavors that emerge from human dynamics and interaction.”
Indeed, all the data point to a mechanized, digitalized and dehumanized trend taking hold, especially when a majority of Gen Z and Gen Y, the younger and up and coming generation, refer to their smart phones as the “most important thing in their life.”