Much to the chagrin of family and friends, I’ve formed unhealthy attachments to technology. If I’m offline for an hour during the day, I start to mumble. Facebook must be checked often lest I miss something important, like Avatar getting snubbed for Best Picture. When my iPhone buzzes with an alert, all face-to-face conversations come to an abrupt halt.
A recent Stanford University survey of 200 students with iPhones sheds light on this growing addiction. One out of 10 students admitted to being fully addicted to the iPhone. Others wavered, saying they’re only partially addicted (right, which is just like being only “a little pregnant”). Just 6 percent proudly stated that they weren’t addicted at all, although a few worried they’d become addicted soon enough.
One out of four described the iPhone as “dangerously alluring.” Two out of five said losing their iPhone would be “a tragedy.” A tragedy? I’m guessing these students didn’t take Stanford’s Greek Tragedy course. Then again, if I lost my iPhone I’d rake my eyes out and cast myself away from Thebes.
On the lighter side, a handful of students said they named their iPhone and even patted it like a puppy. Others wouldn’t let anyone fondle My Precious (Golem’s words, not mine). One out of four described the iPhone as an extension of their brain or body.
Is this kind of technology fixation really a social illness or psychological addiction?
Here’s where it takes a nasty turn: The Stanford survey says some roommates of iPhone junkies felt a little neglected. They’ve even got a term for it: iPhone widow. A United Kingdom law firm recently thumbed through divorce petitions and found that one in five cited Facebook as a factor in their relationship fallout.
Technology doesn’t help us find true love (notwithstanding the Japanese guy who married a manga character). And even though the iPhone connects people, it doesn’t help us bond. The unfortunate truth is, tech addicts live a lonely life.
A few years ago, while attending a CIO event at the University of California, Los Angeles, I saw the tech addiction taking hold among undergrads. Everyone was plugged into technology—and plugged out of the people around them. Students spoke softly into their cell phones or listened to their iPods as they made their way to classes. Inside cafes, students stared silently into laptops.
The campus was an eerie world of isolated individuals, and I remember feeling a bit sad. College should be a social Mecca buzzing with activity, I thought, not a place for self-imposed solitary confinement. After all, the poor bastards will have plenty of time for that later in life when, like me, they’re toiling in a cubicle and waiting for an iPhone alert.
Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for CIO.com in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.