Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1382, (22 - 28 February 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1382, (22 - 28 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The new cigarette

Surely you have one in your pocket, your briefcase, your handbag or most probably, your hand. The truth is over 46 per cent of the population cannot exist without it. In other words, we are addicted to it.

Not too long ago that item used to be the cigarette. The addiction to tobacco was so invasive, so universal, so harmful, it killed 100 million people during the 20th century alone, more than the victims of World War II.

 No warning could stop the addicts until they fell one by one to the numerous killing diseases brought about by that tempting, tiny, pure-looking cigarette.

The new addiction may not kill you, but it certainly kills life around you.

An addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease, induced by a substance you ingest, such as drugs, or by an activity you engage in, such as gambling… or shopping, believe it or not. It is pleasurable, even euphoric. Once it is out of control and causes problems to your family, finances or health, it is an addiction.

Because it changes the structure of how the brain works, it is a disease… a brain disease. Your brain tells you nothing else matters.

Once it interferes with ordinary living, responsibilities, studying, working, or with human relationships, anti-social behaviour, you are hooked and may not even be aware of it.

The new cigarette is not that odd-looking, clumsy gadget that obsessive smokers like to blow on, hoping it is harmless to break the habit. The new cigarette is another detrimental addiction, the smart phone.

Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, economic status, you probably have a multi-tasking phone, computer, tablet, or any other highly technical device with which you have developed a close relationship. It is your new best friend. Admit it.

What happens if you lose your phone for a day, for an hour? Many suffer anxiety if they lose their phone if only for a few minutes. It has been recorded that some have suffered heart attacks. So dependent have we become on our gadget, we rely on it for everything. It keeps our intimate secrets, our valuable family photos, our important bank accounts, our dates, romances, activities… why one could easily say it holds our whole lives as we hold it in the palm of our hands. Panic is sure to strike if we drop it, misplace it or lose it.

Do we have a more constant companion, friend, servant, butler, office boy or dinner companion? It is almost an automatic act to pull out your phone and lay it by your dinner plate without shame, whether alone or with company. It must be in sight at all times even while we eat… it has even invaded the bedroom. We shall say no more.

Lives have been lost through road accidents, whether by drivers, cyclists or even walkers. Yes, a woman texting while walking fell into a pothole in the street. It took a crew of several men and machines four hours to pull her out of the pit. Did she ever walk and text again? Chances are she did.

The only difference between this and other addictions is that it is socially accepted. Our social behaviour is being transformed because we all engage in it, at one level or another.

Dr Leonid Miakotko believes that the electromagnetic waves negatively affect the human brain. Our hand-held device also affects our upper extremities, causing back and neck problems. It is worse for drivers, but what are such trifles to a real addict?

The use of digital technology is starting at even younger ages and transforming modern society in negative ways, physically and emotionally, as well as affecting our mental health, neurological development and personal relationships. Some check their phones 150 times a day. Young people text up to 1,700 times a day.

In America you see toddlers in strollers playing with their digital gadgets oblivious to the world around them. Parents think nothing of it.

 In advanced countries family life has been fractured as each member is glued to his or her cell phone, hardly looking at each other. Often the young emerge after a 24 séance of texting, without food or sleep.

The University of Maryland’s “The World Unplugged” studied 10 countries and found students experienced distress when they had to go without their devices for 24 hours. One In three would rather give up sex.

Psychotherapist Nancy Collins observes in her book The Power of Off, “We are disconnected from what makes us feel nourished and grounded as human beings”.

We have become slaves to our devices that were supposed to be our slaves, freeing us from more responsibilities, allowing us quality time in our real lives. Instead we are constantly bombarded by bells, buzzes, whistles and hisses. We feel compelled to view and respond.

The computer must sleep.

So far the phone will not disagree with you… until it does and it might someday, interact with those who do and you will see your mind and spirit grow evermore than through your cell. Moreover, you will have one less addiction to deal with.

Programmes exist to wean the digital addict from this fiendish device… sports are recommended, reading, writing, walking your dog, getting together with friends. Pledge to cut off usage after work and go slow. One change per day ensures success.

Get the love and support you need from family, friends, away from that addictive, destructive, offensive, obsessive, possessive, excessive device… bent on harming you.

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