Even the Tech Elite Are
Worrying About Tech Addiction
By Farhad Manjoo
In his New York Times article, Farhad Manjoo brings to light the reactions that some of the original social media entrepreneurs are having to the current role phones and social media play in society. Manjoo writes:
“But, just as an experiment, how long can you resist looking? A minute? Two? If you make it that long, how do you start to feel? Can you concentrate? Does your mind wander at what you’re missing? And if you give in — as you surely will, as you probably do many times a day — how do you feel about yourself?”
The article begs us to question our own will power when it comes to electronics and social media. We are living in a world in which we are consistently accessible—everyone can always reach us, and we always have to know exactly what is going on as it happens. It is a simultaneously interesting and troublesome dynamic. Sean Parker, the first CEO of Facebook, tells Manjoo that “it’s a social-validation feedback loop,” and used language to discuss Facebook and other social media apps that was similar to the language used to discuss cigarettes: “as products specifically engineered to exploit addiction pathways in human psychology.” It is, to me, incredibly troubling to think that these applications and platforms that we engage with so readily on a daily basis have some kind of larger psychological power over our focus, thoughts, and actions—that maybe, when I check that incoming text or incoming Facebook notification, it’s not me wanting to check it, but rather me fueling an addiction that is too deeply rooted for me to even recognize as a problem. Chamath Palihapitiya, an ex-leader of Facebook’s efforts at global growth, articulates it plainly: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” While the article explains that scientific inquiry is still needed as to reach conclusive results in some areas of the topic, several previous studies have suggested that our phones do have an addictive pull. One particular test, a cognitive attention test, proved that people who had their phones nearby (yes, even on silent) performed worse than those who kept their phones out of the room. This study, in my opinion, speaks volumes to the tech generations—mine included—and the generations starting to use technology at such a young age, that by the time they reach college and beyond, their brains my now know any different. Manjoo finishes the article with the conclusion: “we might just be hosed.” It is a daunting thought, but one that is incredibly thought-provoking. With a lack of laws and seemingly few ethical issues within the tech industry, I feel that it is a personal responsibility of each individual to be aware of this addictive pull, and to take time away from the screen and away from the demands of this social media centered world to engage in other pleasures, whatever they may be. Majoo’s article should act as a wakeup call to increase awareness not only of the scientifically shown aspects of technology and social media, but to the fact that nobody is there to prevent this or fix the problem. The problem is right here, right now—there are no laws, no people speaking out about the injustice that is addictive technology—it is all up to us as individuals, and the choices we make every day will come to determine the future of not only our media landscape, but our social world.