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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

The Danger of Thinking We're All 'Addicted' to Tech

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businessmen walking and staring at phones

Many parents are convinced their children are "addicted" to their phones. While a reassessment of the role gadgets play in our lives is healthy, many people are buying into a self-defeating fallacy that ironically makes it harder to dial back.

Not only does the idea that technology "hijacks" our brains smack of the same moral panics leveled at previous pastimes, it also miscategorizes what addiction really is.

From a Latin word referring to enslavement, addiction is a compulsive dependency that harms the affected individual. It is a behavior or substance the person has a very difficult time stopping, even when someone wants to. An addiction, in the words of neuroscientist Marc Lewis, "is the brain focusing on just one thing, all else be damned."

Addiction is a pathology. It is not simply liking something a lot. Addiction is a matter of who is using, how much they are using, and the harm done as a result. It's never simply about the substance or behavior being used or abused. Furthermore, telling ourselves we are addicted promotes passivity instead of empowerment.

From Wired
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