I suppose the trend started with addictions to video games, which was the precise reason my parents never let me get a Nintendo. Internet addiction disorder (IAD) is a diagnosable and treatable condition, and with current plethora of gadgets and gizmos available, it was only a matter of time before other technology addictions started making the rounds. The latest: Google Glass addiction.
You won’t find IAD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—at least, not yet—but medical and psychological professionals agree that the disorder is real and problematic, though some think it’s largely one symptom stemming from other issues. As with any other addiction, people with IAD demonstrate compulsive behavior—namely, doing whatever it takes to get online via a computer or other device, or constantly thinking about getting online and the inability to control those thoughts and compunctions. The affliction is a broad term that also includes addiction to video games handheld devices, and now, Google Glass.
Recently, doctors treated what they believe to be the first case of Google Glass addiction. The 31-year-old man checked himself into the Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program for alcoholism, but doctors also treated him for his Glass habit. When he was admitted, he wasn’t able to use his Google Glass, which caused him to demonstrate “significant frustration and irritability.” For the two months prior, he used the device approximately 18 hours a day, including at work and in social situations. He admitted that, had he not been allowed to wear the device at work, he would have been upset and argumentative, especially because he believed the device enhanced his productivity doing inventory for the Navy. He took off the apparatus only to sleep and shower.
The patient was so accustomed to wearing the device that even after he took it off, he kept tapping near his temples, which is how wearers control it. His “withdrawal” was extreme, and he describes it as being worse than the withdrawal from alcohol. But after spending 35 days at the treatment center, he demonstrated reduced irritability and had stopped the conditioned temple-tapping response. However, he does report that he sometimes “experiences dreams as if looking through the device.”
Mechanisms like smartphones and Google Glass have increasingly become the lens through which people interface with the world. There may come a time when virtually everyone is essentially addicted to them and are unable or uncomfortable experiencing the world without them. It may be inevitable, but if I have a choice, I’d rather be addicted to Oreos.