The internet is both marvelous and evil. Technology at our fingertips is both amazing and soul crushing. Don’t get me wrong. I love technology and think that it has the capacity to advance society in ways that are unimaginable.
But what about technology as a space filler — for all those times in the day when we can’t sit still long enough without refreshing our email, scrolling the Twitterverse or checking-in while we wait in line for our next bowl of noodles. We send and receive messages sitting in air-conditioned cars while waiting at red lights. We scroll through emails during a boring conversation. We use our phones as our date when eating alone in a new city.
Why do we go into anxiety mode when our phones are more than an arm’s-length away? Why do I need my Chrome browser open with 13 tabs plus my iPhone to the right of me and my iPad to my left?
This behavior can’t be healthy. Internet consumption can’t be the new super-food on Canada’s food guide. Can we really not sit still for a mere 20 minutes — let alone 20 seconds — without being connected?
Thanks to an article published in 2009 by Nicolas Deleon (formerly of TechCrunch) I discovered that the anxiety we feel when we are disconnected is called – wait for it – Disconnectivity Anxiety. Yup. It has a name. And a creative one at that. According to Techopedia, Disconnect Anxiety is “a feeling of discomfort that occurs when a heavy internet user is unable to access the online world… The level of Disconnect Anxiety can range from mild discomfort to outright pain.”
Instead of laughing at this 1st world, unofficial disorder, perhaps we should ask ourselves, why do we actually feel like we need to be so connected? Why do we get excited when our posts are liked, retweeted or shared?
Some thoughts to consider:
1. We all need to be liked. Whether this is on or offline, everyone embraces a little love thrown their way. Sharing content worthy of a thumbs up or pat on the back is a self-esteem booster for us all. According to Dr. Jim Taylor, “If we’re connected, we’re important. And if we’re important, we must be valued. And if we’re valued, we must be worthwhile people.”
2. The Internet is the 21st century cure to boredom. There are times in our lives where we are so busy that the word ‘bored’ is almost sacrilegious. But it happens. To all of us as some point. Whether we are in between jobs or in jobs that don’t stimulate us, boredom comes and goes, and with it, the ebb and flow of our mild addiction to being online.
3. Letting it all out. Everyone needs an outlet. Sometimes it’s in art, sometimes in music or sports, sometimes it’s through a smattering of social networks. I believe that without a vessel for self-expression, we will all just self implode. Perhaps our addiction to being online is just a preventative from going crazy.
4. Fear of missing out. The Web is constantly changing; innovation is happening around every corner. Our obsession with monitoring trends, news and the release of awesome stuff keeps our eyes glued to the billions of webpages that we call The Internet.
Ok – so now we’ve identified our addictions and tried to identify where they come from. Now we really need to ask ourselves – are we willing to change our behavior? Do we want to be less connected? Perhaps we should just swallow the pill and accept that this super-food is here to stay.