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Are we too wired?

As I was running late for class last week, I quickly grabbed only the essentials – cell phone, laptop, flash drive and MP3 player. It was only after stepping out onto the cold concrete in my socks that I realized I hadn’t even put my shoes on.

That’s right. I thought about these technological devices before even my shoes, let alone my books or assignments that were due that day, because God forbid I go a single day without my cell phone. These actions made me ask, “Are we too addicted to technology?”

It seems that as technology has advanced, our dependence has grown tremendously, and some studies have found that tech-junkies are not that different from drug or alcohol addicts.

Professor Nada Kakabadse of Northampton University conduced research into widespread technological addiction. The study suggested that one third of the people surveyed were addicted to technology.

However, some experts still argue that excessive use doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is addicted, and that addiction has specific behavioral actions including craving, compulsive use, neglecting other responsibilities and withdrawal.

But the numbers don’t lie. The average time people spend on electronic gadgets has become overwhelming.

A survey conducted by the Interactive Data Corp. found that people spend 70.6 hours a week using all types of media and 32.7 hours per week specifically on the Internet. That is almost 71 days spent per person online every year.

The Internet isn’t the only outlet for tech-junkies. The research firm, Jupiter Research, estimated that 195 million people in the United States have a cell phone. That’s nearly two thirds of the population.

The Pew Research Center’s Pew Internet & American Life Project, along with the Associated Press and AOL, conducted a poll of 1,503 people between March 8 and March 28, 2006. The poll found that 67 percent of people 18 to 29 say they always have their cell phone on.

This number is expected to rise as 40 percent of the landline users between the ages of 18 and 29 say they are likely to give up their landlines and go cell-only.

One of the last tech-junkie outlets are video games. Nielson Games reported in May of 2008 that people ages 10 to 26 years old spend nearly 66 hours per month playing Xbox, nearly 51 hours per month playing Playstation 3 and nearly 34 hours per month playing Nintendo Wii.

I personally have not burst into flames from my technology dependency, but Stanford University reported that excessive Internet use decreases social activities.

Instead of literally having conversations with family and friends, our conversations have gone to e-mail, instant messaging and text messages. We are able to stay connected constantly, but the value of the human contact we get from this digital connection is much less significant.

We are losing our ability to interact with people in social environments, because our “social environments” have turned into internet chat rooms, social networking sites and text message inboxes.

Obliviously, no addictive behavior is healthy. There is a point when people stop owning these high-tech devices, and the devices begin to own them, a point where heavy use develops into addiction and technology takes over another life.

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