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Once when Steve Jobs was asked: “Your kids must love the iPad?” He replied: “Actually we don’t allow the iPad in the home. We think it’s too dangerous for them in effect.” Strange for the man who, when releasing the iPad held forth on the wonderful device and the educational tool it gave access to. The reason why Jobs said that was because he recognized just how addictive the iPad was as a vehicle for delivering things to people.

Technology addiction —is a fairly new phenomenon. The smartphone is one of the most useful creations of the last decade. It has become almost effortless to access the internet and social media on your phone from almost anywhere, more of us are becoming increasingly dependent on communicating via the tiny handset. So it’s no surprise that health experts are seeing a rise in addictive tendencies that involve technology.

Since the early 90s, health professionals have been warning about this addiction to different types of technology, though it still isn’t a recognized disorder on its own. In 1995, the term “Internet addiction disorder” was coined by psychiatrist Dr. Ivan Goldberg. In the same year, Kimberly Young, PsyD, established the Center for Internet Addiction and created the first treatment plan for technology addiction based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.

Not all countries have the same level of tech addiction. Research and survey shows that it varies from country to country. Between 1.5% and 8.2% of the population suffers from Internet addiction in the US and Europe. One out of eight Americans have at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use. Solid statistics in the US for addictive behavior specifically related to smartphones, texting and social media are harder to come by. In countries like Australia, China, Japan, India, Italy, Japan, Korea and Taiwan technology addiction is recognized as a widespread health problem. To address this growing issue dedicated clinics are being set up gradually.

Technology addiction can range from moderate to severe. Excessive use of phones or staying online for many hours a day, one might experience a “high” — and also feel withdrawal when cut off. It is not only the amount of time spent with the device, that defines an addict, it adversely affects one’s mental and physical health, daily life, relationships and much more.

There’s little doubt that nearly everyone who comes in contact with the Internet has difficulty disconnecting: People everywhere are glued to their devices. With addiction it becomes difficult to stay focused on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post an update. This technology is both pervasive and persuasive.

The technologies themselves, and their makers, are the easiest suspects to blame for our dwindling attention spans. Apps such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed and the likes are making products so good that users get hooked on to them easily. Since these services rely on advertising revenue, the more frequently you use them, the more money they make. These companies employ teams of people focused on engineering their services to be as engaging as possible.

Not only are we addicted to Facebook and web chats, it can also be regular emails. We check email at all hours of the day, whenever we can — before meetings begin, waiting in line for lunch, at red lights, on the toilet — we’re obsessed. It is understood that one of the main reasons for this is our workplace requirements. For almost all jobs, email is today the primary tool of corporate communication. A slow response to a message does not only hurt your reputation and performance but also your livelihood. In the bargain, work that requires uninterrupted focus and a calm brain to solve problems are hampered and technology addiction leaves almost no or very little time for higher order thinking. Personal technology is getting more engaging day by day and this is why the companies are designing their products and services to an extent where more and more people use them.

Unlike other misdemeanours, checking tech is contagious. It is a common practice that once one person looks at their phone, other people feel compelled to do the same, starting a discourteous chain reaction. This leads to more and more people looking at their phones, and finally one-to-one interactions crumble. Though it is understood that people around us influence how often we use these gadgets, it ultimately boils down to you, who is holding the phone.

But is technology solely responsible for all our distraction? Distraction in human minds has been there since Aristotle and Socrates debated the nature of “akrasia” — our tendency to do things against our interests. If our mind is distracted and unproductive, technology is not to be blamed. Even if a person is not a gadget freak, he would be equally unproductive, if he had a pre-occupied mind

It is time that we should attempt to control our use of technology before technology takes complete control of us. Human identity, could be facing an unprecedented crisis and that could reshape how we interact with each other or change everything that makes us happy. The human brain is under severe threat from the gadget filled world and we could be sleepwalking towards a future in which modern day devices could enhance our muscle power, or our senses.

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