3 Reasons We Have Become Obsessed with Technology

Have you ever checked your phone after 30 minutes, an hour, maybe two hours, only to have nothing new to see on it? No missed calls. No texts. No Facebook notifications or new Twitter followers. Nothing from Instagram. No Snapchats.

Have you then ever checked your level of service, or your internet connection, or gone so far as to turn your phone off and back on again? It must be some kind of mistake, right?

We live in a world now where our ego is based very much upon our technological and social media connections. How many “Likes” we get on a photo we post or “Retweets” or “Favorites” we get from our Twitter musings directly affects our sense of self-worth.

The degree that this affects each of us varies. Previously, I wrote about how we are becoming addicted to technology. But not everyone is addicted. Many of us are merely obsessed.

It took us decades to realistically go from the first telephones to the first televisions. Over roughly that same amount of time, we more recently went from no one owning a personal computer to people carrying multiple devices on them at all times. The access to information and the ability to connect with others is astounding. And dangerous.

How did this happen? How did we, as a collection of individuals, so quickly grasp onto this blossoming area known as technology? Below are three reasons why technology has grabbed onto us tight and hasn’t let go.

1)      FEELING CONNECTED TO OTHERS

Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, theorized that humans must feel a sense of belonging with others before they can increase their own self-esteem. Therefore, to belong or fit in with others is a requirement to feel good about oneself. Technology allows us to feel connected to others. To be a part of something.

As I write this, I have the Oscars on in the background. Just a moment ago, Ellen DeGeneres attempted to set the all-time “re-tweet” record on Twitter for a photo. They snapped a selfie that included the likes of Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts, among several others. In 13 seconds, that photo had been re-tweeted over 6200 times. In 13 seconds. (Update – as I edit this a day later, the photo has since been retweeted over 3 million times)

But then a funny thing happened. Twitter died. At least temporarily, anyway. The incredible surge and rush among all of the Oscars’ viewers to be a part of this moment overwhelmed the site. Later in the show, Ellen, live at the Oscars, announced to the world that they had successfully crashed Twitter. Immediately, thousands of people smiled to themselves as they know they contributed to this.

They helped. They were part of something.

Despite not actually having contact with anyone else.

2)      POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Technology offers us something that no one human being on this earth can: immediate, constant, and never-ending positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement, the idea that any action that is rewarded is likely to be repeated, is far and away the most effective form of behavior modification. A text. A tweet. A “Like.” They all make us feel good. They give us the warm fuzzies. Someone is thinking of me. Someone likes me.

See after my own site launched, I installed Google Analytics. It is a wonderfully informative and terribly addicting tool that shows me how many people are viewing my site at any given moment, where they are from, among plenty of other great information.

Seeing that people are viewing my site is incredibly reinforcing to me. It tells me that the content I am creating is of interest and of use to others. I check my Analytics often (probably too often) on the off chance that I can notice my readers on my site.

On a daily basis, though, is that why we post pictures? Announce moment-by-moment updates on our lives? On the off chance that we receive “approval” from others through comments and shares? Of course it is.

We all do it.

We announce the sad times because we want and need sympathy from others. We share the great things and the accomplishments because we want the congratulations from others. It’s not wrong. It’s human nature. And technology figured out a way for us to be able to receive that all the time.

3)      ESCAPE FROM REALITY

Technology offers us a way to feel (at least superficially) connected to others, and it provides us a source of constant and immediate positive reinforcement. But it also allows us to escape from others.

We sit in a classroom. In a boardroom in a meeting. On a date. In a movie. At a red light (but never while driving, right?). In line pretty much anywhere. At any moment, we have the ability to be anywhere we want to be. It is like having a personal genie in our pockets. But instead of 3 magical wishes we get as many as we can ask over the course of a 12-hour battery life. Then we plug it in and keep going.

No matter what we type into Google. No matter what website we go to. No matter what video we seek, or song we listen to. For the first time, we have complete control over our entertainment and our information. If we are the least bit dissatisfied with the physical world around us, we can escape immediately into a virtual life that we create.

The increase in satisfaction that we immediately feel when we do so? You guessed it: immensely positively reinforcing. It feels good and we’re going to do it again. And again. And again.

No longer do we have to agonizingly watch the clock tick until we reach that moment of freedom. No longer do we have to make idle conversation with those nearby. No longer do we have to exhibit patience, or feign interest, or display any semblance of an attention span. It’s not needed because in just a click or two or five, we are immediately where we would rather be.

And what could possibly be more reinforcing than that?

This is the second installment of the Psychological Effects of Technology series. Topics include how we have come to be so dependent on technology, the effects technology is having on us individually, the effects technology is having on our relationships with others, and what we can do about our reliance on technology.

Help these conversations happen. Please post your comments and questions to my Facebook Fan Page or share this article on your own Facebook profile. Follow me and tweet at me on Twitter @Bevacqua_PhD, or simply print these articles and share them with loved ones.

 

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