The Great Disconnect

Can we ever kick our smartphone addiction? was a discussion in January and February by phone and email.  (Globe and Mail, February 17, 2018)

The participants were:

  1. Norman Doidge, MD, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, author. He is on the Research Faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and on the faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry
  2. Jim Balsillie is the former chairman and CEO of Research in Motion (BlackBerry Ltd) and co-founder of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Highlights to whet your appetite.

We’re only just getting started!

Digital technology is changing almost every facet of our lives from the way we work to the way we parent. Our brains are changing, too. What does it say when we can’t go more than a few minutes without reaching for our phones, or give our private information to faceless corporations without a second thought? Balsillie wonders whether we’ll ever kick this addiction. “Kick it? We’re only just getting started,” says Doidge.

New phones foster enmeshment with parents, and the world, and hamper individuation, the process of becoming a unique individual, because kids are overconnected.

The average office email goes unanswered for only 6 seconds.

By being psychologically online are we making ourselves into virtual parents? What about eye contact?

The most important factor in technology is what it does to our brains. There are significant mental health issues involved.

The blame should not rest solely with users. The focus of big tech companies with their specialist teams is to manipulate behaviour to create craving and anxiety if we try to resist it. These companies benefit for addiction so they build it into their products wherever possible.

People are paying a heavy price for their screen-time addictions.

Privacy and mental health are inextricably linked.

Teachers are concerned about the loss of eye contact.

At a critical time of brain development parents, although physically present, are psychologically online.

What we need are schools that teach what screens can’t do – to immunize students from the medium’s faults.

More people need to step up and engage intelligently, with integrity and public-mindedness.