Law in the Internet Society

21st Century addiction

-- By AnneWu - 07 Dec 2019

The premise is very clear now, that smart phone and social media have drastically changed human behaviors, but most people still believe they are the ones controlling the devices. Sadly, the current situation is the other way around.

How social media and smart phone affect us

I think the social media that turns people into online sharing addicts is undoubtedly Facebook (launched in 2004), and the assistant that help make the constant sharing possible – smart phones, more specifically iPhones, came three years later. (the first generation iPhone was launched in 2007) Since then, people are eager to put everything about themselves online, including their real names, ages, family members, music or movie interests…etc, in order to be “friends” with one another, in order to not be left out of this new Internet community.

At first, people treat Facebook community no different than how they treat their real-life connections, since the people on Facebook are the same group of people they actually know, such as sharing their daily life in few words or posting funny quotes to entertain their friends. Then smart phone came along, which enable everyone to tell their own stories by pictures, everything I share, no matter is the location I went today or the steak I ate this evening, when I put a picture beside my caption, it suddenly looks like my personal channel and I am the charming public figure delivery the information to my friend. By using smart phones and Facebook, people began to discover that instead of being the normal and ordinary folks in real life, they can transform themselves online and create an awesome and extraordinary self easily.

To make people even more self-aware of their online appearances, Facebook has the “like” button as a measurement of one’s attractiveness. Suddenly, people crave for the “like” received and are willing to go to somewhere just for a picture so that they can show off online of how brilliant a life he/she has. I think this is the most drastic change smart phone and social media do to us, we stop living in the moment, instead of talking to the friends sitting right next to us, we are busy uploading the cute cake photo to show my “online friends” that I am enjoying my life, without even trying out the taste of the cake. If I am walking on the street without my phone, I feel insecure of not being able to refresh the Facebook to see what my friend just posted. If I am not on my phone, I feel disconnected. But is it the correct emotion we should have when we are not using our phones? I think not. From exploring my insecurity emotion when I am not on my phone, I felt like it is more similar to an addiction, an addiction to keep track of all my friends and to see if anyone liked or commented on my brilliant photos.

Why is it so hard to change?

Although people starts to be aware that the behaviors of staring and swiping phones are unhealthy, why is it just so hard for everyone to stop these behaviors? One of the reasons I figure, is not enough incentive to change. By swiping our phones, our brains are stimulated with abundance of new information pushed in front of our faces, new texts that want to be replied and new posts of what our friends are up to; by doing so, we get to be distracted from the stress or anxiety happening in real life, we get to be “happy” within the moment we are on our phone. People are all pursuing the things that make us feel good, so if we want to stop doing the things that make us happy, in this case, being constantly on our phones, there should have an equally alternative ways for us to be happy if we stop using our phones all the time. Although the alternative ways may bring us equal joy, such as drawing or singing, I doubt for most people, such alternative ways are not more convenient or accessible for them than indulging themselves in smart phones.

What can we really do?

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I feel that our dependency of our phone is similar to addiction, or even it already is an addiction. If we want to alter our behaviors, I think the most important step will be to treat this behavior as addiction, just like how we treat our drinking or smoking problems. We have to change our mindset against our indulgent behavior and recognize it as toxic to us, and also to identify this point to people around us. However, this is not a method that can eradicate the problem, so I tried to come up with further method that can. As I have identified our dependency of our phones as addiction, I turned to see if there is a magical way people put an end to their addiction problems of alcohol and nicotine. Apparently, there is not, people who quit drinking or smoking usually rely on their own will power to get over the temptation, maybe with some assistance of peer support from self-help groups, but in the end, the decision is still up to the person himself. I actually find it funny to come down to this conclusion, because at first I approach this as a very complicate problem that occurred due to the advance of technology, the fast-paced and pressuring society…etc, but when it boils down to addiction, one can see that human beings have a long history of battling our own demon; and maybe not every time we will lose.

The addiction metaphor may be useful to you, but it's a metaphor. The nicotine molecule is addictive, as the heroin and cocaine molecules are addictive, for chemical reasons. Alcohol dependency is more complicated, and social practices around alcohol use affect the way long-term exposure affects human beings. But this behavior you are describing is engineered by other human beings, and results from "persuasive design," a set of technical and artistic mechanisms for making the technology you use harder for you not to use.

My computers are tools that I use. The software in them, which is free software only, works for me. It helps the computers I use to be productive for me, which they bloody well are. Your computers use your attention as a tool. The software works to keep you using the phone instead of living the life the rest of your nervous system is attached to. I don't think that's addiction. I think that's assault. Choose your metaphor, but be conscious of the other one....


Webs Webs

r2 - 19 Jan 2020 - 15:21:56 - EbenMoglen
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