By: Rebecca Savastio
Admit it. You know something is wrong. At home with your family, the kids have their noses buried in their smart phones, your spouse is checking email constantly and you're on your ipad, buying lilly pads for your tiny frogs or checking on your farm.
If you're not on your ipad, you're on Facebook. If you're not on Facebook, you're on email, and if you're not on any of these things, your hand is never far away from something electronic.
You're on drugs.
Have you seen the video of the girl who falls into a fountain at the mall because she is so engrossed in her cell phone? She looks just like a junkie-totally zoned out and completely unaware of her surroundings. It's hilarious, sure, but how far away are any of us from the same fate, really?
Perhaps you've heard this theory before from some article or commentator, and you brushed it off, thinking that the luddites were getting restless. But if you stop to ponder your own level of involvment in social media, your smartphone, the internet and other similar gadgets, can you measure how much time are you spending immersed in them versus actively talking to your own family?
Out at dinner the other night, I saw a young boy, about ten years old, with his head down on the table. His parents were staring and tapping at their phones during the entire meal. The boy would lift his head from time to time, checking to see if they had put their phones away, only to slump down again, his head in his arms, bored to death. It was a terrible, terrible scene.
Researchers say that when we use social media or play games on an ipad, our brains get flooded with extremely high levels of "feel good" chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine, some of the same chemicals that get released when taking narcotics, gambling, smoking and drinking alcohol. These chemicals can also get released during benign activites like eating and exercising, but it's the level of the spike, and an individual's respose to it, that can determine addiction.
Unfortunately, research out the University of Chicago shows that social media is actually more addictive than either cigarettes or alcohol.
Of course, it's easy to dismiss both smoking and drinking as much more harmful than Facebook, and perhaps they are, physically. But what about emotionally?
Would it be unfair to say that the little boy at the dinner table mentioned eariler is being emotionally abused?
Certainly, if a parent is an alcoholic, and is under the influence all the time, it woudn't be a stretch to claim that their child may suffer abuse and/or neglect. But for some reason, we seem to recoil at the idea that we could be perpetrating abuse and neglect on our own family when we are constantly engaged in our gadgets.
We're addicted, and we need to start talking about it.