Our addiction to technology trumps caffeine, chocolate and alcohol


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This probably sounds familiar: You’re out to dinner with friends, and everything’s fun, until you get that itch. It’s been 20 minutes, and you really want to check Facebook, or Twitter, or Foursquare or email. Forget about wanting; this is needing. You finally give in to the urge and sneakily check your phone under the table -- or fake an urgent visit to the bathroom, where you’ll take a hit of the Internet while huddling in a stall.

Anecdotally, our Internet use seems to have spawned real addictions. And according to several recently released surveys, we’ve got it bad.


More than half of Americans would rather give up chocolate, alcohol and caffeine for a week before parting temporarily with their phones, according to a recent survey by technology firm TeleNav.

One-third would give up sex, 22% would give up their toothbrushes (versus 40% of iPhone users, who evidently love their phone more than clean teeth) and 21% would rather go shoeless before separating from a mobile phone. Sixty-six percent sleep with their smartphones by their side.

Our addiction is so severe that people described going 24 hours without Internet akin to quitting an alcohol or cigarette habit, according to a report from British company Intersperience.

About 40% of those surveyed reported feeling lonely without the Internet, and 53% felt upset at being deprived. One person described unplugging to ‘having my hand chopped off.’

University students who faced a sudden Internet and media blackout began to display withdrawal symptoms, during another survey conducted by the University of Maryland.

At least it’s universal. One American said she was ‘itching like a crackhead’ after going cold-turkey for 24 hours, and an Argentine student reported feeling ‘dead’ without media, while a Lebanese student described the whole experience as ‘sickening.’


The students recognized that there are joys in life besides browsing the web and curating their social networks, according to the survey, but all nevertheless reported feeling distress, sadness, boredom or paranoia.

‘Media is my drug; without it I was lost,’ said a British student. ‘I am an addict. How could I survive 24 hours without it?’

One wrote: ‘Emptiness overwhelmed me.’ Another said he ‘felt incomplete.’


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-- Shan Li

Top photo: Cigarette breaks become social media breaks at work. Credit: Mark Smiciklas / Intersection Consulting via Flickr