Is Technology Becoming the New Nicotine?


Photo credit: Jessica Small

Abbygail Reid, News editor

When we think of addiction, most of us think of alcoholism or drug abuse. But the easy access, anonymity, and constant availability of the Internet, email, texting, chatting and twittering has led to a new form of compulsive and dependent behavior. This sort of dependency is more prevalent in teens than any other age groups.

It has been proven that the average American teen sends and receives an average of 3,339 texts per month. But this number was obliterated when a 13 year old girl, Reina, sent 14,528 text messages in one month. Her parents thought it was not humanely possible, but after calculations were made, it was concluded that she would have had to have sent a text every 2 minutes that she was awake. “It was winter break and I was bored,” said Reina, who messages her four best friends even when she is sitting right beside them.

More than half of Americans would rather give up chocolate, alcohol and caffeine for a week before parting temporarily with their phones. And 22% would give up their toothbrushes and 21% would rather go shoeless before separating from a mobile phone. 66% sleep with their smart phones by their side, according to a recent survey by technology firm TeleNav.

But texting and mobile device addictions are not quite as novel as Facebook addiction. In fact, US psychologists say that excessive use of Facebook leads to a condition called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD). The correlation between the time spent on Facebook and the number of “friends” a person has may lead to a vicious cycle- that the more time a person spends on Facebook, the more friends he or she accumulates.

“The Facebook Project” says that 60% of users feel good when a friend leaves a comment on their Facebook status, which is a sign of social acceptance.

“I am definitely addicted to Facebook,” Antoinette Walton, sophomore, said, “my routine is wake up, check Facebook for messages, check it in my first hour class, go on it for an hour after school while I listen to music and before I go to bed for another hour… so in general I am on Facebook for about 2-3 hours a day.”

But misusage of technology like texting while driving has also become a major issue. “While drivers are texting, they spend about 10 percent of the time outside the driving lane they’re supposed to be in,” said Edgar Snyder, “and also talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.”

A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) proved that distracted drivers cause about 6,000 deaths and a half a million injuries every year.

As more modern Americans become addicted to technology, this addiction affects the productivity of many Americans in school and the workplace. And even though the convenience of modern technology can be nice at time, you should think of effects before you pick up your cell phone or any other gadget while operating a motor vehicle.