Dec 26, 2018

Escaping the tech obsession

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For eight young men the AP tracked down in Seattle, tech obsession has become something much darker, getting in the way of their normal lives.

"We’re talking flunk-your-classes, can’t-find-a-job, live-in-a-dark-hole kinds of problems, with depression, anxiety and sometimes suicidal thoughts part of the mix," the AP's Martha Irvine reports.

  • "The young men sit in chairs in a circle in a small meeting room in suburban Seattle and introduce themselves before they speak. It is much like any other 12-step meeting — but with a twist."
  • “Hi, my name is,” each begins. Then something like, “and I’m an internet and tech addict.”

Why it matters: For those looking to dial back, tech obsession likely ends up feeling like a very cruel Catch-22, Axios managing editor Kim Hart notes.

  • Even those who have developed a tech compulsion and try to limit their use of it usually aren’t able to completely avoid it in their daily lives. More and more jobs require at least some contact with screens and internet-based systems.
  • “The drugs of old are now repackaged. We have a new foe,” Cosette Rae tells the AP.
  • "A former developer in the tech world, she heads a Seattle area rehab center called reSTART Life, one of the few residential programs in the nation specializing in tech addiction."

The big picture: Scientists take pains to describe tech differently than alcohol or drug addiction because the research around tech or internet addiction is not yet settled.

  • "An American Academy of Pediatrics review of worldwide research found that excessive use of video games alone is a serious problem for as many as 9 percent of young people."
  • "This summer, the World Health Organization also added 'gaming disorder' to its list of afflictions. A similar diagnosis is being considered in the United States."
  • "It can be a taboo subject in an industry that frequently faces criticism for using 'persuasive design,' intentionally harnessing psychological concepts to make tech all the more enticing."

The bottom line: We're still in the early phases of understanding how these devices and screens are rewiring our brains. But what we increasingly sense is that the benefits of totally reorienting our lives around screens may also come with real costs.

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Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at a press conference in March. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

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