Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a concept in psychology that describes the series of conditions that humans need to be happy and healthy. Represented by a pyramid, the concept has been modified by many on the internet who place wifi or connectivity as the new base by which we can measure basic human needs.
While in jest, this does speak to the value we increasingly place on being able to connect and use our devices to communicate with friends and loved ones, or just consume the latest celebrity gossip.
Webby Award founder Tiffany Shlain describes “an infinite dopamine loop where you just can’t get satiated, a hunger for knowledge, info, sex, drugs, drinking, all the same addictive hormonal loop.”
This loop is not just imagined, it is physiologically experienced. Stanford University based psychiatrist Dr. Elias Aboujaoude does work around Internet addictions and notes similarities with disorders like OCD.
Dr. Aboujaoude generally cautions that overuse of media and technology could have adverse effects: “I don’t think anyone knows if our brains are wired in a way that allows us to process safely and in a healthy way this bombardment of new technology that we’re being subjected to.”
Whether you’re a parent, or whether you feel the strain and fatigue that comes from staring at a screen for too long, there are clearly consequences that come with our growing society wide addiction.
That’s not to say we can’t walk away. Sociologist and Microsoft Researcher danah boyd regularly champions putting our devices away for periods: “I’m a big advocate for email sabbaticals, I think they’re fantastic. People are amazingly afraid to take them. They’re afraid of what they’ll miss out on.”
However Dr. Aboujaoude is careful to warn that these are early days when it comes to our understanding of the impact or consequence of Internet addiction: “For a medium that has changed our lives in such radical and irreversible ways the Internet has not received nearly the degree of scientific attention and research that it deserves.”
We should all be cautious when it comes to how much uninterrupted time we spend connected to the machine. A clear sign of a problem is when you experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t check your email or social media regularly!
How long can you go without being online?