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Process Addictions

I just had my first class for the semester at Vanguard University. I teach a class on Addictive Behavior in their graduate psychology program. It's a fun class to teach, but I've noticed an interesting thing over the past five years since I started teaching.

Every semester, the students are getting more and more zombie-like during class. Every semester, I am seeing more faces staring at their computer screens during class intead of paying attention (probably facebooking or emailing as opposed to writing notes). Or texting on their phone. Or otherwise multi-tasking or engaging in technological brain-numb while I'm talking.

Now I realize that they could be doing this because my lectures are incredibly boring. I''d like to think I'm a dynamic and funny professor, but am humble enough to acknowledge that is a possibility that I just plain suck. But in talking to other professors, this "zoning out" thing seems to be a university-wide epidemic. It's gotten so bad that there was some serious discussion amongst the faculty as to how to deal with it.

Let me point out, again. I am talking about grad students. Not junior highers. Not 18-year-olds. These are adults, with 4+ years of college behind them, seeking a post-graduate education that they are paying out the nose for at $400 per credit unit.

So last night, for my first class, I laid down the law: No staring at laptop screens in class. No typing in class. If you wanna write notes, use your pen. But be present in class. Look at me while I'm talking. Talk back. Participate.

After I gave my "allow me to ruin your classtime social networking party" speech, I launched into the evening's lecture, which just so happened to be an exploration of chemical addictions vs. process addictions. And suddenly I had this epiphany: the trend I am seeing is a growing number of students who are accustomed to zoning out, distracting themselves from reality, and unable to listen to one live person talk for any number of minutes.

Kind of a problem for people interested in doing talk therapy all day.

It makes me wonder how our advanced technology is affecting our ability to listen and to be in relationship with others. (And by relationship, I mean one-on-one, as opposed to Facebook friends). Are we becoming a society so entangled by our computers and phones that we no longer know how to relate in the real world? Is there an emerging generation of computer-addicted young adults who need their laptop like they need air and water?
Is the movie WALL-E coming true??

In my lecture, I talk about the reality of process addictions, and how they can be just as dangerous as chemical addictions. I talk about how people can swap gambling, or pornography, or shopping, or any other number of mind-numbing activities to avoid reality. It's scary to think how many of the kids growing up today will struggle with an addiction to technology, computers, phones, and video games. It's so pervasive that it's even commonplace.
It is enough to give me pause, and to re-evaluate my own time spent at the computer, and the tether I often feel to my activities online.  If I'm honest, I know that I am often not living to my values by sepnding time on facebook instead of with my kids, or by texting a friends some funny tidbit while out with my husband, or by letting my son spend too much time on his computer game because it gives me a break.  Our technology has given us great advances in connecting with others, and yet the connection at times seems to be growing wider in breadth and yet much more shallow in depth..  I do sometimes think that a spiritual and social shift is happening right in front of us.  But are we are all too busy checking our inbox to notice what is happening?  Or all we all so entrenched in this process that we don't even really care?

Comments

Your blog makes me think about smoking in the 50s. Everyone smoked because it was the new and cool thing to do. Years later we know smoking is addictive, causer cancers and heart disease.

Maybe in 30 years we'll all be suffering from a similar fate from additions to technology. Maybe someday we'll all lose the ability to actually speak words...haha

This is a very interesting article.
I spiritual shift has already happened. It is my belief that change happens spiritually then mentally, then socially, and the cycle continues. What is the shift? "I am not enough" has taken over. Therefore people want more. More friends, more excitement, more fantasy, more money, more house, more "looks", more connections, more gadgets, more games, and the list goes on and on. By striving after more, people fail to catch sight of their true purpose, and the next generation, your children, have been "sucked in" because you have been "sucked in." If we don't find a way to pull out now, only a tremendous and catastrophic occurrence will shake them. And this occurrence is coming.

You are enough. You need one thing. You need to be aware of your connection to The Source, God, Jesus, within. That is enough. You are enough.

To get there everyone must sloooooooow dooooooown. Who is willing to do that? Either choose to do so or be forced to do so - the choice is ours to make.

It's not just a generational phenomenon. I'm almost 60 and I sit down and think "I'll just play this game for a few minutes after dinner." Two hours later my fingers are stiff and my wife wonders why I haven't spoken to her all evening and I haven't done anything I need to do to prepare for the next day. And logically I don't have anything in my real life that I want to escape from. It just sucks you in. You have to build barriers against it. Thanks for putting it on the table for discussion. I'm sure your class is fascinating.
doc

I laughed when I read this:
I gave my "allow me to ruin your classtime social networking party" speech.

I'm a grad student and last semester I was giving what I thought was a pretty interesting report on Oppositional Defiant Disorder. When I walked back to my seat I noticed that one of the girls in my class was getting a head start on her "black friday" shopping on Kohls.com. Really?? Kohl's ??? I would have I would have been delighted with something as charming as facebook as opposed to watching our economy disolve on Kohls.com.

thanks for your article,
Jeff

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About
Kristen is a part-time professor of psychology and a full-time mom. She indulges in sleep-deprived rants about parenting, politics, race, religion, social justice, and various other subjects that her mother warned her not to discuss in public.


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