Electronic Addiction (A Personal Essay) Eric Jacobsen Junkie Welcome to the world of the over stimulated, desensitized, and burnt out. There is a huge problem in our society, a problem that I cannot claim to be free of by any means; in fact, as I sit here writing this I am feeling its effects. The worst part of this issue is that it started for me in early childhood, as it did for many others. Kids start younger than ever before and they use more frequently. The fix is never good enough.
New mediums are being created and old ones are being improved all the time. Our largest industries revolve around it. It seems to create in the users a need for more and more; it is an unending cycle that eventually can destroy one’s life socially and in every other way too. When did this problem start? It has been around since the turn of the century, but at that time it was not nearly as common as it is now and it didn’t often consume people’s lives as it does today. As people experimented they developed more effective techniques but it wasn’t until the late fifties that the problem first came in to the average home.
In my opinion the invention of the television set was the beginning of the end of humanity, as they knew it. Now, since I was not alive for any time before this happened, I cannot know for sure that things were significantly different then, but all the films and television shows I have seen seem to indicate that it was. Apparently there was a time when people still had the ability to talk to each other seriously and for periods of time that exceeded twenty minutes; legends presented in a million pixels of high definition tell me that at one point people lived their lives through experiences that were their own, they read books and decided what they needed by themselves. I cannot know what this would be like for I have grown up with all the available forms of consuming media my entire life. I was two when I first started watching television, three when I watched my first video, four for my first film in a theater, and I was about six when I first learned to use a computer. As I grow older I would like to think that I am separating myself from this, but that is not the case.
Right now I sit in front of my computer with my stereo headphones on, playing music from a list of over four hundred songs, writing poetry to friends over the internet, and using a microphone that takes the sounds of my environment and feeds them though a maze of green on green circuit boards and then mixes them with my music and I can hear myself typing this though my music is rather loud. It is a very surreal experience for it is a new one. Soon, however, as I get used to it, I will think that something’s wrong when I don’t have my microphone on. I realize that although I control the media more, I’m still a heavy user. It has been argued that this new phenomenon of being able to interact with your media makes it less brain sucking and, in a sense, that is true, but I would argue that although it does require the user to be thinking and this is a good thing in some respects, it also distances one further from reality. I am not alone in developing reflexes that are only usable on a computer interface and attempting to apply them to my real life.
I have a close friend who has tried to strafe out of the way when he thought he saw a terrorist coming towards him. He has also tried to Z target moving objects. I have had similar experiences. I was recently at a party listening to the music and I found my self picking out the beats in the song and figuring out what they were called and what the sequence would look like on my beat creation program –the beats were Hardcore 909 (reversed) BD 1, Sub BD and 808 Snare– and when I got home I recreated the sequence on my computer. These are not things one should be thinking; I should have, rather than creating the beats on the computer in my mind, thought of what they would be on an actual set of drums and my friend should have .. well ..
not have, instinctively, seen a man in a green shirt as a terrorist or a bird as a fire bat from Zelda. In this way interactive media seems to be almost worse than the output-only media of the past. Interactive media as a replacement for real life is not only an experience to be watched on the screen, it is something to be created and manipulated by the user in ways that our real existence is only in our dreams. Is this an addiction? Certainly. I see in a child I tutor an anxiety when we are working at his homework, and the second we are done he runs up the stairs to the computer to play Diablo 2 without even saying goodbye.
He talks about the computer game constantly throughout our sessions, telling me of the new item he found or his latest slaying of a monster. It has also been shown that video games stimulate parts of the brain in ways that are only seen elsewhere in narcotics such as heroin and nicotine. Are such dependencies purely a mental alternative from the ‘real world’ or is there a chemical aspect involved in the addiction? I know there is certainly is that aspect for I have on more than one occasion experienced a state of euphoria from playing videogames. I would also like to mention another strange effect a computer game has had on me: I was playing a game called “Sims”. In this game you are to control the actions, environment, and lives of simulated people in a neighborhood that you build.
This game has a feature, which you can use to speed up the action. I was playing on the top speed for about an hour – no mean feat, I assure you – and when I stopped I found myself doing everything at a highly increased pace. I read seventy-nine pages of my novel in a very short time before trying to go to bed. In bed I found my heart was going too fast for me to possibly be able to get to sleep so I got up and walked exceedingly fast to the kitchen and prepared food much as the Sims do in fast forward. I then went back to bed and read another fifteen pages before trying to sleep.
I got almost no sleep that night though I kept looking for that bubble above my head with the little Z’s. Now whether this was a chemical response or was psychosomatic I cannot be sure, but the effects were there all the same. These effects are not uncommon and although not everyone suffers from them as much as the young, there is definitely an effect on everyone’s life. We lose the ability to concentrate, to make conversation, to write, and to function in a world that does not depend on a sequence of on’s and off’s. When we live in an alternative world lit by cathode rays, we dwell in and visit ‘the real world’ when we want something different, but what about those people who like to be comfortable in a static state? When will they visit this quickly fading ‘real world’? Social Issues.