Techno-Social Reengineering of Society, pt. II: Technological Teen Angst

(Continued from previous post…)

This is the beginning of a path where powerful companies use “smart” technologies to gain control over us by framing our choices and pushing us toward a programmed life of convenience and cheap, ignorant bliss. And cheap bliss can be very addicting.

Addiction involves tolerance and dependence, or an engagement despite conscious knowledge and recognition of one’s own detriment, with resultant misery. This also includes substances and behaviors, as well.

Can you honestly look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you have no addictions? Ice cream, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, porn, video games, coffee…?

How long did the rush from your new iPhone last? The new car? The new wife?

As a society, we have become tolerant by obtaining new stuff at a moment’s notice. It’s no longer a want, but a need, to have the newest, fastest, shiniest, coolest whatever. This is driven by the body’s natural pleasure chemical, dopamine, which drives our consumer culture and keeps our economy going—at a clear, perceptible, and increasing cost, however.

In many ways, the cell phone is like a slot machine, with every ding being a variable reward, whether good or bad, that is anticipated. This is the ultimate rush of dopamine, which is very similar to snorting a bump of cocaine.

In New York Times Magazine, Robert Kolker wrote, “Distraction is the devil in your ear—not always the result of an attention deficit, but born of our own desires.”

In other words, we are distracted because we want to be. But why? Well, because it’s fun and confuses real life. Steve Jobs called the iPhone “magical” when it first debuted. And it truly is, seemingly, since it exploits two types of attention: what we want to focus on and what takes us by surprise. And it’s all about the surprise. It’s instinctive and immediate, striking our dopamine and nucleus accumbens, the reward system of the brain. However, the feelings are fleeting and never last, nor produce any real happiness. In fact, the frequent “phone-checking,” waiting for something to change or happen, is directly linked to anxiety and depression.

According to many studies, cell phone use directly links with stress, sleep loss, and depression in young adults. One such study showed a correlation between cell phone use and grade point average (GPA)—the higher the use, the lower the grades. The study also showed that higher GPAs correlated with more feelings of happiness and contentment, and with more anxiety came less feelings of happiness and contentment.

Studies have also shown that adolescents who sleep with their phones in their rooms get less sleep than those who don’t. Whether it be due to video games, the glow of the blue-lit screen, or anticipating a notification, it’s a very negative distraction. Sleep deprivation increases food intake, risking weight gain, which drives further unhappiness.

Kids and adolescents aren’t the only ones affected either. In a tragic example of technological distraction, a South Korean couple obsessed with raising their two “virtual children” online had led their actual three-month old daughter starve to death.

Let that one sink in for a minute…

The Chinese have already incorporated “Internet Addiction Disorder” to their list of psychiatric disorders, but America has yet to include this into the DSM—for now. It is already being considered, so you can bet your ass it will be in the DSM-VI.

Rehabilitation centers around the world have had to incorporate a new program for “device addiction,” with people withdrawing in some cases. While opioids get the most press, for good reason, internet and gaming addiction is leading the way to social devolution in large numbers. From World of Warcraft to Call of Duty to Pokemon Go!, video games have been linked to a new millennial term: bingeing—which can result in excessive sleep deprivation, which can lead to death.

While video games are played by both sexes, they’re typically played more by males, who suffer from this addiction more than females. Women and adolescent girls aren’t left out when it comes to this new addiction. No, they are the majority of victims of Social Media Addiction.

Adolescent girls post more “selfies” than both men and women at any age. After a selfie is posted, they wait in anticipation for the ‘Likes’ to roll-in; but, when they don’t, they believe there’s a problem in their social standing, which means the world to any adolescent. Adolescent girls using Facebook were seen to develop depression if they used it as a surveillance tool to compare themselves to others. When it comes to this, adolescent girls are certainly not alone.

Teen suicide has been a rising concern since the dawn of the new millenium, and continues to be on the rise. This was fought with anti-bullying campaigns within schools, but ultimately never stood a chance against the cyber bullying done on social media. However, cyber bullying is not the main culprit behind the rise in teen suicides. At least, not if you look at the correlation between teen suicides and the number of “selfies” one has posted on their social media platforms.

If you’re an insecure teen already predisposed to depression, your cortisol is already taking a toll on your prefrontal cortex and your serotonin receptors have been diminishing. With the addition of prowling the internet to see what and who other kids are ‘Liking,’ teenage angst is brought to a whole entire level.

Adolescence is a painful time as it is, and while cell phones and the internet may encourage networking and creativity, they also come with a steep price.