By Letter to the Editor on February 4, 2020.
I saw a woman of certain age at a restaurant, who was obviously addicted to her phone. She looked at and clicked on the device every few minutes. Her table was next to ours. I felt guilty looking, but could not help it because her behaviour was so extraordinary.
Her sister – I assumed she was, judging from the resemblance – kept putting her hand on her sister’s phone to restrain her. In the end, the woman put her phone on her lap and continued checking it while eating dinner. If that was not addiction, what else could it be called? I shuddered to think of her driving a car. However, one sees similar scenes everywhere nowadays.
I saw a recent statistic showing that the number of traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving is six times that of driving while intoxicated. It is 16 per cent of all road fatalities. Most are cases of speaking or texting on the phone while driving. The report says it is now the leading cause of death on the road. It is a very serious problem, more serious than that of death by opioid overdose. Why is it, then, the problem is not talked about more prominently?
I understand that addiction to the internet causes damages to the same organ made by other types of addiction like alcohol, drugs and gambling. I also understand that internet addiction is caused by not merely psychological but also biological change. It is a serious public health issue. Digital technology has now become an integral part of our life. Society would not function without it. Then the question is, what can you do to avoid the damaging effect of internet addiction?
Speaking as a recovered dialled-up “chat room” addict (remember those days?), the solution is the same as that for any other addictions: Disciplined consumption. It can be harder than “cold turkey.” Besides, total abstention often does not work. It has been tried before with drugs. We can get addicted to all sorts of things, not only to alcohol and drugs. But you can keep consuming under a strict regime with the right amount, frequency and timing, without being totally destroyed.
We can avoid the destructive result of addiction to devices by setting time, duration and frequency. It takes will power. Once it becomes a habit, it is easier. This is what we do with alcohol, food and recreation – disciplined consumption. All can be good for you in moderation.
Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui