Technology Addiction: David Hall’s Youth in Glass Cages

David Hall, a family counselor who specializes in narrative therapy, spoke at Carson-Newman Friday, Feb. 15.

He works with youths and spoke on many topics, but the technology-saturated water that youth are swimming in was a major focus throughout the 6-hour interactive presentation.

He highlighted some of the simple everyday differences the generations have lived: he recalled calling friends’ houses as a teen. It was no big deal if you had to leave a message. Now, he said, if he doesn’t get a text from his wife before she leaves work he worries and joked about convincing himself not to call the police to see if she’d been in a car wreck.

Patience has changed, he says. But for youth today, in many areas of their lives they’ve never had to wait. Instant gratification all over the place. As my friend Haridas Chandran, a high school physics teacher, described the problem (in the context of doing science), science is not a one-touch process, and that makes it quite hard for youth. Like science, life is not a one-touch process, but when you can control so much so quickly–pick a song you want to hear, a video you want to see–the illusion of control grows strong.

And when you get used to control, life is pretty scary. David said, “I can’t make corn manifest. But I can get seeds, plant them, tend them, and do a lot to try to grow corn.” But disaster can happen. Raccoons might get the corn. (Especially if you happen to grow it in a garden in Knoxville). The lack of certainty for youth produces a lot of anxiety. And anxiety now represents the largest number of diagnoses, replacing depression.

Anxiety is one of the major issues youth face that is exacerbated by technology. A poor relationship with time is another. Both of these set up what I consider a paradox: despite all the “connectivity,” people feel isolated and alone.

Drawing on the symbolism of a study of rats, he compared post-Vietnam heroin addiction among soldiers and rats. If a rat had a good social network, it would avoid opiate-laced water almost completely. A rat that was alone would easily become addicted. Soldier use of heroin in Vietnam was high. When they came home, those with social networks tended to cease use.

The moral of the story speaks to the power loneliness can have on a person. So how come in our hyper-connected world is suicide and and addiction so prevalent?

William James once said that there’s something deep inside your soul that knows when you’re not being true to yourself. Well, maybe our souls know when a friendship is virtual.

I’m imagining if I felt like crap and a friend that I have rarely had deep interactions with face to face told me to keep my head up. Not only would it lack meaning, the apparent, glaring lack of meaning would be a terrible vacuum that might make me feel worse.

I enjoyed his presentation and took a few ideas for my own parenting.

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