I am reading a fascinating book by Adam Alter: Irresistible: Why we can’t stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching, about our obsession with our smartphones, our emails, our endless Twitter twittering and our fascination with Youtube.
It makes for a sobering read, none more so than when we are
told that leaving a very young child unsupervised in front of those children’s
gadgets which transfix a child’s eyes for hours, but deprive it all too quickly
of the ability to look people in the eye, actually damages their little brains. Even something so harmless as talking to a
child on Skype reduces the importance of eye-to-eye contact because the child
cannot apparently pitch its eyes at the right level on the screen to evoke the
kind of immediate response it looks for in the presence of another person.
Not being a two-year old, why did I come to the depressing
conclusion that I, too, was addicted, but what to? Of course it is to my emails, the only bit of
electronic equipment I use. I have,
reluctantly, accepted the need for a Facebook account to pass on my blogs to a
wider audience; I can go for days without looking at it. But I am, I now realise, hooked on checking
to see if any new emails have arrived, so worried I apparently am with the need
to answer them immediately, as though not doing so is impolite.
From reading this book I gather that this is a definite sign
of an addiction. I don’t have a
smartphone so I can only check up on my emails when I am physically sitting in
front of my computer, ready to tap away on a large keyboard with an
old-fashioned mouse to hand. Having now
counted up how often I find myself returning to the computer when I am at home,
and realising that my first action on coming back home is always to hurry to
turn it back on again, I acknowledge that I do have as much a problem as if I
had immediately to grab a glass of wine if I was a heavy drinker. It may not be as harmful to my health as
drinking too much, but it is probably as harmful to my peace of mind in its own
way, because each email demands something of me, and often these demands are
worrying or disturbing. I am as much in
thrall to this wretchedly addictive piece of equipment as anyone hooked to
chatting endlessly on Twitter.
Of course, it is not only me, but all those countless others
I see in the street or in cafes, their fingers twitching away at their smart
phones, their eyes unable to look away to see the world around them, so busy
are they scrolling up and down looking for God knows what.
I know that those emailing me can wait a few more hours or
even a few more days for an answer from me, so I am resolved to watch myself
now and reduce those compulsive excursions of mine to sit in front of the
computer. Let’s see whether I can manage