Every so often a study emerges that connects social networking or some other tech-related phenomenon to some form of anxiety, depression or social problem. These links are founded, like in the case of the very real factors associated with Internet addiction or “nomophobia,” in the problematic connections we’re forging with our technology and the associations we give it.
Now a new study released by Anxiety UK, a non-profit from across the pond, has added more fuel to the fire. Over half of social networking users polled in the study noted that Facebook, Twitter and other sites had changed their lives profoundly – and not necessarily for the better.
According to the study, 45 percent of respondents said that they felt “worried or uncomfortable” when they couldn’t access Facebook or their email accounts. 60 percent of respondents said they felt the need to switch off and disconnect to secure a “break” from technology. Two-thirds of respondents had trouble sleeping after accessing social networking sites, while a quarter felt that confrontational online behaviour led to difficulties in relationships.
“These findings suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it,” says Anxiety UK CEO, Nicky Lidbetter.
There have been a number of other studies to back these findings up, like the recent Mobile Mindset study that revealed 75 percent of those surveyed would “panic” if they lost their smartphones.
For all our advances as a species, it does appear that we are more hooked than ever on technology and frankly wouldn’t know what to do if we were left out of the loop. Commercials suggest that we forge emotional connections and lasting bonds with our gadgets, while consumers asininely line up for hours for the next big thing – and many aren’t even sure what the next big thing does.
Where this reliance on technology and Web-based interactions will take us is really anybody’s guess, but hypothesizing about a future of leaning on the everlasting arms of computers and depersonalized services is nothing new. The plot of nearly every major science fiction novel over the last few decades has had a least something to offer on the subject.
For all the good technology and telecommunications advances have done us, it seems that we are reaching a point at which the costs may have to be considered more seriously. Are we creating future generations of utterly inadequate, dependency-driven morons? Are we trusting too much in the ability to “connect?” And have we forgotten how to really connect and sustain relationships?
These questions require answers. It may be exciting to plunge ourselves headlong into new advances and new toys, but overlooking the human costs – and questions – the showy, extravagant gadgets offer is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make in this exciting but perilous age.