TO CLICK OR NOT TO CLICK – Grant Rampy Unplugged

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Armed with your smart phone, your tablet and your laptop, you’re ready for just about anything. Go ahead: Ask me where the Nikkei index stands at this very second. Let me tell you about the latest post on our company’s Twitter feed. Give me sixty seconds to text my boss to tell him about my last meeting before I head into the next one.

Commentary by Firestorm Expert Council Member Grant Rampy, Director of PR, Abilene Christian University


We may be armed and dangerous, but we also walk around feeling mighty guilty. A black cloud hangs just overhead, not quite as close as all those cool toys we carry, but close all the same. Deep down we feel a bit like an eight-year-old who can’t break free of his Nintendo DS, or like the teenager whose thumbs are calloused from pecking out status updates to her 500 closest Facebook friends.

If you can’t get away from the feeling you’re overdoing it with the constant connection, part of you may be thinking: I’ll banish that pesky guilt and hold tight to my push-button companions. It is, after all, not just OK; being so attached may actually be good for you.

Researchers at UCLA have studied brain scans that show use of the Internet can sharpen your mind. A test group of older adults, asked to embrace a regimen of web surfing for an hour a day, showed markedly increased brain activity, especially in the frontal lob where we do most of our thinking.

Imagine: being able to click your way to better cognitive health!

On the downside, a new listing will soon be added to the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Do you suffer withdrawal symptoms when you’re unable to tap on your mobile device? You may have Internet Use Disorder.

If so, rest easy in the knowledge that you’re hardly alone. 90% of us own cell phones; more and more of them are smart phones; and increasingly we’re finding new ways to stay on our devices. Between texting and talking, many of us use them for roughly 90% of our waking hours.

Researchers at the University of Maryland say students who were asked to go without their phones for a 24-hour period had a shockingly hard time doing so. 70% of the test group couldn’t do it. The study crashers experienced an overwhelming sense of boredom and emotional detachment.

With ever more connections and distractions, the danger in clinging too tightly to our electronic surrogate spouses is that we’re limiting face-to-face interaction; we’re crowding out quiet and calm; we’re taking less time to look our fellow earthlings in the eye during regular ho-hum conversations. And that may be making us all less human.

Sure, we have an almost primitive need to gather information – to know and dominate our environment. Now, however, with unlimited information, we can’t stop gathering. And it will only get worse for the next generation now being raised with iPads and YouTube.

Let’s find a happy medium. There’s no way we can go back in time to the days of rotary dial phones and IBM Selectric typewriters, and the day is fast approaching when reading a paper book won’t simply seem quaint; the norm will be to see it as illogical. (Why lug a two-pound paper brick around when you can carry 30 tomes on a tablet?)

Let’s continue to happily click, but with a bit more control. Many a would-be techie from decades past dreamed of the digital future that is our Now. We can confidently continue to embrace it. We need not let our new tools turn us dumber and depressed, lonely and lethargic, prone to being obsessive-compulsive and ADD.

Maybe the secret lies in occasionally mustering the will to click the ‘on’ button off, if only to prove we can.


Image: US Department of Health and Human Services: National Institute of Mental Health, Public Domain


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