Cellphone vibration syndrome and other signs of tech addiction

New book, iDisorder, looks at the dangers and offers advice for dealing with obsession

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How do you counterattack that? There are two things you can do. You don't have to carry your device 24-by-7. What I suggest is you develop your own tech break. About every couple of hours find one way to get away from all of it, phones, computers, everything - for 10 to 15 minutes. You do what neuroscientist call 'resetting your brain.' There are tons of activities that we know reset your brain. Taking a walk in nature, looking at clouds, looking at a picture book (not on your computer), exercising for a few minutes, laughing, talking to somebody, speaking a foreign language, playing a musical instrument. Our brain is at a constant, high-activation level and we need time to let it mellow, rest and reset, so then we can better process the information.

A lot of people use LinkedIn and Facebook for professional as well as social reasons, but you argue that the reliance or heavy use of these platforms can lead to problems. Why is that? First, let me say that I'm a fan of social media. I find it an amazingly powerful tool. Having said that, I think that the way social media is right now, it is promoting obsessive behaviors, it is promoting the constant need to check in. I am the worst at this. I am constantly checking in to see if there are comments on my site, because I want to jump on them. I am constantly checking in on Facebook, and one of the things that I have had to do is moderate this kind of behavior. Social media is intensely compelling.

Are there societal dangers? The major societal issue is not about the social media. The social media research tends to be coming out as flipping to the positive side. We are getting more (from social media) than we might be losing. My concern is smartphones, which I refer to as WMDs (wireless mobile devices) but I think they are also potential weapons of mass destruction. Where I see the problem is in two situations. One is in the family, the other in gatherings of friends, where you are spending too much time checking your phone and responding to things on your phone. I don't care if you claim you are multitasking. You cannot be attending to a text message and getting what your friend across the table in the restaurant is telling you completely. You might get the words, but you're not getting the context, the emotions and the feelings. You're not really paying attention. The same thing happens in the family. I see these devices as being very divisive to the family unless we set very clear guidelines about when they are acceptable and when they are not. As soon your kid gets an iPhone you may as well be talking to him about the right time use it and the wrong time.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

See more by Patrick Thibodeau on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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