WASHINGTON, April 7, 2013 - “It’s getting harder to differentiate between schizophrenics and people talking on the cell phone. It brings me up short to walk by somebody who appears to be talking to themselves.” Bob Newhart.
What started out as a means of adult communication has become a teen status symbol and a new age addiction, and it is not a drug: It’s a cell phone. Recent research at Baylor University finds the link between materialism and IT devices are creating a generation of learned compulsive behavior. With four billion cell phones in use today, that’s a substantial amount of compulsion.
Cell phones act like a pacifier for impulsiveness, which is a major component of addiction. Studies reported by the Journal of Behavioral Sciences show that young adult send an average of 109.5 text messages daily and check their cell phones an average of 60 times a day.
Dr. Rick Naurert, an expert in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare and an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University claims his research shows 22 percent of cell phone users describe themselves as “Heavy users” with eight percent paying bills of $500 or more per month. A large survey showed 28 percent of cell phone users use their device to contact partners, 28 percent contact close friends, 26 percent contact family and only 11 percent use the phone for business.
New York City based Psychiatrist Dr. Jeremy Spiegel, founder of Casco Bay Medical with offices in Danvers Mass. and Portland Maine found that cell phone socialization is skeletal and interferes or replaces interfacing with people on a much needed social level. The device is creating what some experts call the “Narcissist Generation” - those who truly believe they are so important and popular with their thoughts they make themselves available to whom over needs them.
The cell and text addiction feeds the misplaced sense of self-importance and is now exacerbated by twitter, making the young sycophantic and susceptible to non-gainful unintelligent chatter. This meaningless chatter is time consuming and can displace activities of greater personal value.
The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM V), the soon to be released-the 5th edition bible for mental health care professionals, is rumored to include an appendix to promote research of internet addiction. In today’s world, that addiction translates to any electronic device which generates response behavior that presents as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and may be contributing to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
To make matters worse, Hiam Einhorn, CEO of EZ Technologies, has sounded the alarm on unacceptable radiation levels from cell phone use. Einhorn notes that no long-term studies currently exist to definitively answer the question of whether cell phone radiation causes brain cancer. He notes, however, that the evidence is trickling in. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined the levels of electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones is a possible source of brain cancer.
The future may hold a means of digital detox and 28 day rehabilitation where the young actually sit in front of each other in an attempt to speak face to face after an anticipated long silence.
Until then, a responsible electronic industry should produce teen cell phones that can only be operated “X” amount of minutes daily with parental control much like the safeguards built into cable TV and internet pornographic sites.
There is an unnerving possibility that the physical damage from electromagnetic radiation may go the route of cigarettes; a strong socio/political aggressive industry interfering with evidence until millions are addicted and many get deadly ill.
From a psychological standpoint, while these devices are increasing social connectivity, they are decreasing healthy social connectivity and interfering with human interaction that fosters intimacy and closeness.
Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Sciences.