Battling Addictions of the Electronic Type

tech addiction It has not been much of problem while on the boat or at sea, but now that we're back in the Land of Plenty, we admit that we have some serious addictions and battling them is difficult. It's not drugs nor drink that have taken over our lives … it's electronics … cell phone, internet, TV, Words With Friends … the list goes on. We're ashamed, but we're feeling helpless.

It all started when Lin, my sister, gave me an iPhone for my birthday soon after we returned to the US last December. We couldn't figure out how to use it and doubted we ever would. Now, as unlikely as it seems, it is an integral part of lives. There's a resounding ding which beckons attention whenever a text message or an e-mail arrives. It dings all the time. Last September while crossing the Atlantic, we thought it was okay to check emails once a day. Now whenever we hear that ding … we grab for the phone to check it. Really … what could be that urgent? It's a Pavlovian response … although checking texts is probably better than salivating and drooling.

We've started sitting in front of the TV each evening. It doesn't matter what's on. We glance up while playing Words With Friends or Sudoku on our iPads … making sure to check the phone whenever there's a ding. Sometimes there's conversation which many times leads to an unanswerable question … our memories aren't what they used to be. Then Siri gets involved. Apple's Siri (Speech Recognition and Interpretation Interface) answers our questions or tells us where the nearest Chinese restaurant is or what time the local supermarket closes. Mary does not have a telephone book in the house, nor an encyclopedia, nor a dictionary/thesaurus. Why would she? Just consult the internet or easier yet, ask Siri.

We cannot go anywhere in the car/truck without the phone. We wouldn't know where to go or how to get there. After all, the iPhone is really not for telephone calls at all (although I do appreciate the R&B piano riff that sounds when a call comes in). It's a GPS … and a camera (movies or stills) and a flashlight and a message/email minder and an address book and an appointment calendar and so much more. It appears our whole life is totally tied up in this small device that we couldn't figure out how to use three months ago and is now, predictably, impossible to do without. How did that happen?

I read a newspaper article the other day (yes, my hard copy, hold in my hands, black-ink, delivered-to-my-door morning newspaper) about detoxing from cellphone/internet addiction. Technology addiction is a science unto itself. There's even a Center for Internet and Technology Addiction which provides self-tests you can take on-line (the addicted will really love this) to determine your level of addiction.

It's definitely time to get back to the boat where internet and phone access isn't as easy. Specialists recommend a gradual weaning rather than a cold turkey approach. Yes, we'll suffer some withdrawal initially. We'll get fidgety and panicky and feel a bit unsettled and disconnected … but we'll survive. We understand that in order to recover, there will be pain involved. No pain, no gain. Thank goodness we're not addicted to sailing … much.