London : Our obsession with latest technologies like smartphone, tablet or laptop may cause not only distraction, but it may also change our personalities, says an expert.
An estimated 65 per cent of people in the developed world have a smartphone, tablet or laptop. And it is predicted that by 2015, eight in 10 of all people would be connected this way – all the time.
Dr Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University, calls these gadgets wireless mobile devices, or WMDs, and explores their potentially explosive effects in his new book, iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us.
“We’re in the middle of a grand experiment here. We’re at the early stages of understanding a society that carries the world in its pocket. It’s good – you can always connect with someone – but it also means you’re there, 24 hours a day… Our brains have not developed to be constantly engaged like this,” the Independent quoted Rosen as saying.
In his book, he uses his own and other academics’ research to show how the users of WMDs appear to display the symptoms of an array of personality disorders.
One example is narcissism, named after the hunter in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pond.
To a narcissist, who would display traits including grandiosity, a need for admiration and a lack of empathy, social networks, Rosen writes, “provide a virtual playground for self-expression”.
A study of 3,000 Twitter users by Rutgers University in the US identified two types of tweeters: Meformers and Informers. Participants were representative but 80 per cent of all of their tweets were about “me”.
Rosen says: “Even people who would not behave like this in the real world feel comfortable presenting themselves that way online. Because they’re able to do it behind a glass screen, it somehow changes the way they relate to the world.”
Rosen says the mobility of new devices that bring us within ever closer reach to networks of friends has added to a “digital cocooning” effect, causing many people to become socially withdrawn from the real world.
The researcher surveyed more than 1,300 people of different ages and found the younger participants were much more willing and able multitaskers.
But, he writes, “the more tasks we take on… the more our brain gets stressed and overloaded, and the worse we do at all of the tasks.” There is no multi-tasking, Rosen says, only “task-switching”, and it isn’t productive.
Rosen admits he shows signs of obsessive behaviour around Words with Friends, the Scrabble-inspired smartphone game.
Whether it’s repeatedly checking your inbox or Facebook, Rosen blames this sort of behaviour on the “undercurrent of anxiety that if we don’t check in we may be missing out on something”. “Disconnectivity anxiety” leads to worry and even physical distress.
To combat anxiety, Rosen suggests using your WMDs less.