Habit forming or addictions

We can develop Technojungle habits, but are we actually able to become addicted to our technology and to the Technojungle? Can you unplug? Can you leave your technology and the Technojungle behind sometimes?

The safari we are on in these books covers a lot about my personal life. Here I’ll tell you that I have struggled with addiction, most notably alcohol. However that was over 38 years ago. What I understand is that both habits and addictions can be negative or positive in nature, and that addictions have a certain greater power in my life than a habit. I must watch that I don’t acquire negative habits or addictions, and that includes anything related to technology.

If I can maintain a habit of regularly brushing my teeth everyday, something I seem to have somewhat strayed from during retired life in this pandemic, it would be considered a good habit. If I have a habit of eating candy all day, it would be a bad habit. But, it could also become an addiction. I could be addicted to the sugar which affects my body chemically, actually, much the same way as alcohol. People can become addicted to gambling or risky behaviour. But why? 

Have ever heard the phrase we humans are “creatures of habit.” What does that mean to you? It means that we like routine because it is easy we don’t have to think about it much. For example, it is a good habit to check your Technojungle E-mail at least once or twice a day, and to deal with the E-mails appropriately, such as with a reply to someone. However, if you are checking your E-mail every hour without a good reason, you may have a bad habit. Habits have some sort of rational thinking behind them. But, what happens when habits go too far?

We are going to take a stroll down the Technojungle paths of habits and addiction. But first, let’s make sure we have a good understanding of these two human behaviours.

Do you think a habit can be acquired or changed in 21 days? Actually, studies have shown that it takes between 18 and 254 days, with and average of 66 days, to form a habit.

Suppose a person develops a habit of simply being very nice to everyone. That could be a great habit we should all consider. However, have you ever encountered someone who was extra nice—even too nice—which, well, made you feel just a little creepy? Could that person be somehow addicted to being nice, that is, that being nice was more than a habit? What happens about too much of a good thing? Could the Technojungle present us with activities that seem good, but have hidden consequences we are not aware of?

There is a huge difference between a habit and an addiction. Humans can be affected physically, mentally, and spiritually by almost anything in their lives. This can include, substances (food, drugs), and activities (gambling, shopping). Can you think of other addictions? Can we become addicted to other things such as sounds or smells? 

Addictions have a much deeper impact on a person’s life, and on the lives of other around the addicted person. How would you define what an addiction is? If something becomes a compulsive activity, you may have an out of control habit of be addicted. For many of us, once we find something that changes the way we feel or think, we can sometimes develop a craving. We can become conditioned to using or doing something as a habit until it is no longer healthy. For some people, this overuse is more likely to happen than for others, however, I have often thought that everyone can become addicted to something. Are you addicted to anything? Are you an addict? 

There are so many activities and behaviours which can be good or bad habits, or something we are addicted to. What about habits and addictions involving the Technojungle? Do you think we can go so far as to say that the Technojungle is counting on you becoming addicted to something? What is it in the Technojungle that you might be addicted to? Social media?

 The pursuit of satisfaction causes an activity to become a habit, or an abnormal compulsive dependency—therefore an addiction. Your mind and even your body adapts to the overdoing of that activity to the point where you have to do it, and that doing only a little is no longer satisfying. Habit and addictions are both physical and psychological. Many argue that an addiction has a spiritual connection. 

The partaking of one activity, or using one substance, may lead to doing another activity, or use of another substance to seek satisfaction, obtain an even better feeling, or counteract a negative side affect. 

Here are some important aspects of an addiction that I have noticed. One can think, “If a little is good, more must be better.” The mind has the ability to forget, ignore, or in some way self-talk oneself out of, negative memories, feelings, and negative physical outcomes. On the other side of having indulged in an addicted behaviour comes remorse. “Why did I do it again?” While habits are usually more rational, addictions are usually irrational and defy logic. This is why other people are sometimes bewildered about an addicted person and can’t understand them.

Addictions are associated with the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This is worth looking into, however, beyond the scope of this book.

We usually think of addictions as being the overuse of drugs and alcohol. Nobody would deny that these are huge problems in our society. On the one hand, certain drugs are legal. Alcohol is legal, yet the cost to society of drunk driving and ruined lives due to alcoholism is difficult to justify. Do you know someone with an alcoholism background? How can alcohol be legal and yet cause so much destruction in the lives of many people? Cigarettes are legal, yet long arduous campaigns around the health risks have led to a reduction of cigarette addiction. Do you know anyone who smokes and is not addicted? We have all gained an understanding of the dangers of second-hand smoke to non-smokers nearby. What do you think about the smoking of other substances such as the marijuana drug, which has become legal in many jurisdictions? 

At the time of editing this book, where I live, Canada, has recently taken the bold move of legalizing cannabis (marijuana). There are many reason to wonder why making another intoxicating substance legal makes any sense. After all, the war against cigarettes is being won and cannabis is usually smoked as a cigarette, although it can be used in other forms—even forms where it can’t be detected and where children might get the product. Unlike alcohol for which there are good intoxication detection methods, cannabis intoxication measurement is not reliable. Legalization might encourage some people to use cannabis who otherwise might not. One reason I have for concern is the smell of the smoke which can carry for quite a distance. I do not like the smell of alcohol, which carries for only a short distance, because I have a background of alcoholism. If my substance abuse included marijuana, I might find myself in trouble.

Many people become addicted to various drugs. We all understand this. Any drug that can alter a person’s mind or body in some way, may be a substance that someone could become addicted to. It may also lead to the use of other substances. To me it seem to make little sense that our societies work so hard to reduce cigarette addiction, yet legalize marijuana. Marijuana use is still smoking, isn’t it? It is still a drug that alters the state of one’s mind similar to alcohol, isn’t it? Doesn’t this seem like a contradiction?

Are there addictions which are difficult to deal with simply because they involve something that is necessary for life, such as food? Most of us understand that overeating is unhealthy. It leads to several health concerns. Obesity is said to be an epidemic. You need food, yet, it may pose some dangers to you if you have an addiction. This can be a difficult dilemma.

People can become addicted to the many forms of gambling—even gambling with their lives through risky behaviour. Even though we recognize that families are destroyed by addiction to gambling, why do we build more casinos and hold more lotteries, seemingly ensuring more people can have their lives destroyed and dehumanized in the Technojungle?

Most likely it is dopamine and adrenaline that contribute to activity-based addictions; however, addictions are very complex, since they involve the body, soul (mind) and even the human spirit. How addictions affect the human spirit may be the most difficult to understand. This makes addictions something many people avoid thinking about.

Most aspects of addictions can be a dilemma. Why do we allow some activities to get out of hand and even become dangerous, before we see a need to deal with them? At the same time, don’t we often protect, justify and defend our activities, even when they are unhealthy and life threatening? As individuals, we will continue with unhealthy activities to the bitter end. This can even happen with societies as a whole. 

Addictions are both physical and psychological. Many argue that an addiction has a spiritual connection.

I have purposely taken a fair amount of space to discuss the often cunning and baffling problems of addiction. Can you think of any situations where societies can easily be led to believe a problem does not exist until it is too late? Is it that we simply don’t want to admit the problem exists? Is it possible that the Technojungle is leading us into habitual and even addictive territories and we are completely unaware of it, or worse, aware, but unwilling to deal with the issues? 

I remember the Sixties. Since then, we have seen a greater focus on the rights of an individual. People of the Me Generation fought to do whatever they wanted and to be whoever they want to be. The rights of a person can now often take precedence over considering the welfare of others, or the rights and desires of others. 

Now, let’s take what we know about habits and addiction and see how they relate to the Technojungle and dehumanization. Can you find any similarities between habits and addictions and our use of technology? 

How about texting and distracted driving? Have you used a device while driving? This has become such a problem that the police in Vancouver, BC issued 1600 tickets in one month for distracted driving. What do you think drives a person to use a device while driving?

We have all heard of young people who spend too many hours of a day, or even days, playing video games, so are they addicted? Many of these games are of a violent dehumanizing nature. 

Like with most habits and addictions, I see the addiction to video games as multifaceted. What do you see as the multifaceted addictive aspects of video games? 

One is the playing of the game itself, another addiction is to the violence, and let’s not leave out the adrenaline aspect. Do players become addicted to using their reflexes to push buttons? Is staring at a screen to see an alternative world an addiction? Can someone become addicted to the sounds in a video game? Certainly the adventure aspect of the game is a large part of the addiction to video games. Have video game player become desensitized to the violence? Games, including many other Technojungle activities, such as social media, are carefully designed to be so engaging that the player, or user, finds it nearly impossible to stop, or even limit their playing or activity time.

Is it possible that the Technojungle brings other habits and addictions into our lives that we don’t even recognize? How do you feel when you are talking to someone and they look at their watch? If you are talking to someone and the smart device in your pocket or on your wrist makes an alert noise, do you interrupt your conversation to check the alert? Have you done this in the middle of a sentence by making a short excuse that you “…just need to just check this?” What does that say about your values? What do you believe the other person thinks? Even if you were not in a conversation, would you jump to see what the Technojungle alert was? Would checking the alert lead you to do other things once you have your smart device in your hands? Is it difficult for you to put your Technojungle device down? Do you consider these behaviours as habits or addictions?

Adapted from a Pexels photo by Artem Podrez
Adapted from a Pexels photo by Roman Odintsov

We have all heard of people who must check their E-mail often—even every hour or more—is that you? How many people do you know who must look at their Technojungle social media accounts many times a day? We have numerous technologies, but can our use of them be viewed as compulsive, even obsessive? Have you heard of the psychological category called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? When you are out on safari at various places, have a look around. You will most certainly see people interacting with technology when enjoying the company of one or more people personally face-to-face might be a healthier choice. Just being outside in nature in a natural jungle without the Technojungle, would be better—more humanizing. Remember, we are trying to find ways of being human beings. 

People go on vacation and take their technology and the Technojungle with them, allowing it to interrupt their rest and relaxation. Business people are prone to always having to be connected. Even when they are supposed to be relaxing, or even recovering from burn-out that may have been partially, or entirely, caused by never being unplugged from the Technojungle and their work, they feel they must be connected. 

The business people who go on vacation to fend-off burn-out, or because of burn-out, often worry things might go awry if they are away and not pugged into the office and the Technojungle. Are they  worried that someone else may come along and take their place? Do you experience severe concern that things just might be fine without you? Do you worry about missing something important that only you can deal with? Isn’t this what drives an addicted person into always having at least one foot in the Technojungle at all times—never unplugging from their work? This simply creates more stress.

Social media can also lure a person into feeling like they might miss something if they are unplugged. Are you, or do you know, someone who can’t be unplugged from the Technojungle? Do your devices seem like a burdensome big bad bag of baggage that you drag around everywhere with you? Isn’t this a dehumanizing dilemma? I suggest we adopt a slogan like, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should?”

During the pandemic, being online in the Technojungle for long periods seem inevitable. Yes, there’s always cooking, books, walks, and other activities, but the Technojungle beckons. I often wonder what people did back during the 1918 pandemic. What do you think will be some of the fallout from this latest pandemic that could leave people with more habits and addictions?

Some of these examples sound almost like a forced habits and addictions. The ability to be reachable at anytime through the Technojungle, leads to the expectation that one is always available. Do you feel you must be available at all times? Does turning off your Technojungle devices make you feel stress and anxiety? Do you feel you will miss something important? Could you be called a Social Mediaite because you are a heavy social media user? Do you feel you must always be available online in the Technojungle and connected to your social media?

Do you believe being connected to the world everywhere and at all times is expected by our society? Are you expecting this of the Technojungle? It is difficult to go anywhere and not find Wi-Fi networks, cellphone networks, and Internet Technojungle access points. I remember the first time I heard the idea that Technojungle Wi-Fi should be available in parks among the trees and nature.  

But WiFi? I guess one idea is that people won’t go out and enjoy nature in the parks if they can’t be connected online to the Technojungle at the same time. That is just what I want to do, I thought, walk my smart device in the park and thus take all my connections and the Technojungle with me. Is there no way out of the Technojungle, even in a natural jungle? How do you feel about this? It seems like an oxymoron—a dehumanizing dilemma. 

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

I won’t of course, deny that having a cell phone and even GPS when on a hike in the real jungle are great safety assets. I’m sure many a lost person has been saved from peril by a particular Technojungle technology. This happens regularly in the mountains just outside my door. How do you feel about social media, or other aspects of the Technojungle, mixing with nature? We need to be strong and manage our habits and addictions to the Technojungle.

Do you think park usage may increase through having technology available, or that the very survival of our park jungles is dependant on marrying them to the Technojungle? Sure you can interact with your device, perhaps watch some golf, or write some E-mails, when you should be watching Johnny’s soccer game. You wouldn’t want to miss Johnny’s goal because of your habit or addiction to the Technojungle, now would you? Or, has this, or something like this, already happened to you? Where should your attention be? I pity the poor 200 year-old tree that ends up with a technological transmitter device nailed on it to bring the Technojungle to the real jungle.

For people working in the Technojungle industries of Silicone Valley, there is a camp. Yes, an actual camp such as the one you may have gone to as a kid. Upon entering on the first day, campers are required to surrender their mobile devices and their lifelines to the Technojungle. The camp program is designed to get participants unplugged and to enjoy some low-tech Technojungle living—in a real jungle. Attending the camp can reorientate them back towards what it means to be human—it rehumanizes.

In my mind, I can just see and hear one of those informative movies or TV shows from the 1960s showing people and all the futuristic technologies in their Technojungle life. The announcer is saying, “Life in the future will have so many wonderful gadgets to make life easy, comfortable and full of leisure. With so much spare time, you will go on vacation to camps that will give you plenty of activities to keep you busy.”

Amputees talk of sensing, or feeling, their recently amputated limb. People who decide to take a break from carrying their phone around, or simply forget to bring it one day, tell of experiencing a phantom pocket ring. They feel a vibration in the place where their phone would normally be and find that it is not there and thus could not be ringing. Have you ever been without your phone and felt the phantom ring? Isn’t this a sign of a habit, an obsessive and compulsive behaviour, even an addiction? It is certainly an unexpected phenomenon of this future we are living in that nobody would ever have predicted. What dehumanizing dilemmas lie in store for us in Technojungle of our future?

Everyone has experienced being out in a restaurant with someone who insists on using their device to access the Internet Technojungle at the table. They think that it is OK to bring the Technojungle to dinner with them. Some people out with a group do what has come to be called stacking. Everyone piles their device in the centre of the table and the first person to use their device before the gathering is over must pay for the meal. Do you use your Technojungle device while eating? As you nourish your body, what are you nourishing your mind with?

Addictions are extremely serious and we need to give careful consideration as to what we might be addicted to. Have you seen people who are seriously ill, even dying, from what they are addicted to and still they can’t give it up? How about the smoker with emphysema dragging a canister of oxygen while hacking and coughing, then they stop to light up a cigarette? How about drug addicts, alcoholics? Could an entire society be addicted to trends, or something, that might not be healthy? This is not easy to think about. The addicted person is unable to clearly see their own predicament. We must look carefully and honestly.

How do your describe a free society? Isn’t a free society a humanizing society? It must allow that which serves every member of society to flourish, unless the greater good is threatened, which may be difficult to identify and prove. To interfere with the rights of others is to threaten the freedoms of society and humanity. To allow freedoms to certain individuals, or minority groups, may often decrease the freedoms of others. One’s Technojungle habits and addictions can interfere with the lives of others. To be human is to be free and to not be free is to be dehumanized.

So it is with everything in our lives—even the Technojungle—that we must take responsibility for our own misuses and possible addictions that present dehumanizing dilemmas. How can we responsibly steward our use of the Technojungle if we don’t have a good understanding of what we are doing with the technologies in our human lives? Can you try to understand what particular technologies are doing with and to you, perhaps affecting your humanness? This is why I am challenging each reader to take some initiative to begin this journey of understanding. Look at what we are doing with technology, see what is really happening and ask if some form of habit and addiction might be happening. Remember Look, See, Ask?

Have you noticed that many children are started out early at becoming techno-addicts? Parents give their children a device, such as a tablet, to shut them up and control them. I was behind a minivan the other day and could watch Sesame Street through its back window. Whatever happened to talking in the car, or counting Volkswagen Beetles (we called them peanuts)? Well, the beetles… they are…. 

A news item on TV one day told of a children’s play area at a mall that did away with the usual play activities and installed stations of iPads embedded in the walls. That actually did lead to some complaints. I wondered if anyone who complained would then turn around and give their child an iPad to pacify everyone in the car. Don’t blame these children when they get older since they didn’t know what they were doing.

The future is full of unexpected surprises. There is baggage and ways we might become addicted that we can’t even imagine. However, let’s take some baby steps now toward understanding how the Technoljungle influences and even invades our lives bringing us new habits and even addictions. We might be able to look, see and ask questions about our future to at least recognize a few possible habits and addictions, and perhaps even avoid some. Can you foresee any future habits and addictions we humans might have to contend with?

Addictions are enslaving. Slavery is dehumanizing. We can all have a propensity toward some sort of habit and addiction. You don’t want to be a slave, you want to be free. So take a few steps today toward being a better human being and living in this world of technology—the Technojungle!

If we look carefully at what we have just read, we may realize there can exist many habits and addictions to the Technojungle, and that we, each one of us, can have habits or be addicted. Can you disconnect? Do you get anxious when you are separated from your technology?

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