Bahr: Americans have a tech addiction

Connor Bahr

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been told by countless elders, teachers and parents that you need to “unplug” more and interact with real life. They may say that you have a tech addiction, and that you wouldn’t know what to do without your phone.

Searching Google with the term “tech addiction”  has 124 million results. Common symptoms include: excessive use, negative repercussions and withdrawal symptoms when trying to limit use. Yes… thank you, website, for telling me that getting rid of my boredom is an addiction. I suppose people struggled with addictions to books or board games back in the days before the internet.

55.1 percent of the global population has access to the internet, though in some areas internet access is likely not used extensively. In countries such as the United States, however, the majority of people have smartphones, computers and/or access to the internet through public libraries or internet cafés.

I’ll admit, I am quite glued to my smartphone and to the internet in general. My phone never leaves my side, and when I am in my dorm, I hardly leave my computer desk. In many ways, I am “addicted” to the internet, but I think the word “addicted” has a negative connotation on it that doesn’t apply here. In a similar way, one could say I am “addicted” to driving my car instead of walking, to cooking my food instead of eating it raw, or living in a building instead of living outside. These are all things that we do basically all day, everyday. However, we are “addicted” to them because they are helpful technologies that make life easier, much like the internet.

Not only does the internet make it easier to shop, find information, or entertain oneself, but the internet also provides an easy way to connect with others through long distances. I can learn equations, listen to bands from across the globe and Skype with my friends without having to leave my chair.

I don’t think the problem comes from the lack of human connection, as often cited by people who think the internet has taken over. In fact, I think human interaction has increased due to the internet. Using myself as a real life example, Snapchat has kept me in touch with people whom I haven’t seen in years. I have had multiple pen pals from Europe and Asia, and I keep in contact with my brother, who attends another college, through online gaming. I am able to talk to more people than I ever would if I had to go meet them in the “real world.” The difference is that I am not face-to-face with them. To people who didn’t grow up with the internet, it’s possible online interactions simply don’t count as real interactions.

I believe that this divide over “addiction” all comes down to a simple misunderstanding and a difference in the way each generation defines interaction.