Step Away From the Computers, Says Silicon Valley


You know concerns about internet addiction are real when the people whose job is to get us addicted to the internet are worried. No one less than Stuart Crabb, a director in Facebook’s executive offices who oversees learning and development, is urging users to do the unthinkable: Log off, shut down the machine (or at least put it on sleep) and go do something involving the real world and real people.

Others in the tech community with similar views are Soren Gordhamer, founder of Wisdom 2.0 which holds an annual conference about finding balance in the digital age, and Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer and former head of engineering at Cisco. Gordhamer speaks of us being “done with this honeymoon age” of untrammeled tech-love. Warrior says that she meditates every night and spends her Saturday painting and writing poetry while “turning off her phone or leaving it in the other room”; it is “almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” she says.

Indeed, at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in February, amid sessions on yoga and mindfulness, leaders and executives from all the big tech companies (Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Zynga, PayPal, Google, Microsoft and Cisco) “debated whether technology firms had a responsibility to consider their collective power to lure consumers to games or activities that waste time or distract them.”

I’m not sure if tech leaders see it this way, but it seems they are presenting themselves with an ethical conundrum that, rationalize as they will, they may not be able to extricate themselves from any more readily than tobacco companies can disassociate themselves from cigarette addiction (which internet addiction has been compared to). Eric Schiermeyer, a co-founder of onling game company Zynga, makes the case that Silicon Valley is “no more responsible for creating irresistible technologies than, say, fast-food restaurants were responsible for making food with such wide appeal.” It’s a similar argument heard from, for instance, fast-food companies or soft drink makers about bans on their products: They’re just making what they make; if consumers want to consume things they know aren’t good for them, they are free to do so and to suffer the consequences.

Other members of the tech community — aware of reports about how people now spend 28 percent of their office time on email — urge people to be, indeed, mindful about the “addictive properties” of gadgets.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the authoritative reference book for psychiatric disorders, is planning to include “Internet use disorder” in the appendix of its next edition, a sign that the American Psychiatric Association thinks that such a condition may exist and merits further study. Even if “internet addition” does not become a full-fledged psychiatric disorder, the side effects of engrossment in the internet, computers and gadgets including poor nutrition, “cyber shakes,” headaches and other symptoms are more and more noted.

Small wonder that a school that does not at all embrace technology is populated with the children of Silicon Valley workers. Mindful of the dangers of electronic devices, we can, perhaps, teach future generations about their limits as much as about their powers and make sure children are deeply aware of the marvels of the good old-fashioned real world.


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Photo by visibly damaged


Leanne K
Leanne K6 months ago

Typical. Groom and foster an addiction then blame the addict. Like casinos, including the while they laugh all the way to the bank part.

Elizabeth H
Elizabeth H6 months ago

Just up the road we have a new skate park. Haven't seen so many children playing in a long time.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Valentina R.
Valentina R6 years ago

Computers, and technology overall, can become very dangerous if you use them too much.

Michele Jones
Michele Jones6 years ago

To add to my previous post of how much I use the Internet for, I recently landed a job as an online adjunct instructor. My job will be teaching/facilitating a course via the Internet! So that's 2 jobs I have that earn money because I use the Internet. There are pros and cons to everything, I suppose.

Berny p.
berny p6 years ago

Good advice for many matter what age you are....

in other words...GET A LIFE

Simon Validzic
Sime Validzic6 years ago

The internet can improve or worsen the quality of life; it all depends on how it is used. It is nice to receive a genuine e-mail from a friend or relative but I noticed a problem this year. A few times, an relative or old friend discovered me, and said "Remember me?" or "How are you? via Facebook"; I got all excited, wrote them a few paragraphs, and looked forward to their reply. Unfortunately, they never replied and I do not know what to do. Another problem is when people "like" my petitions on Facebook but do not sign them!

Of course, having access to the internet and information is better than the days when one had to accept the word of teachers and parents (especially when they would blame the victim of bullying, ridicule evolution, or say that one had to eat meat). The problem is just that there is too much information. However, I also have that problem with newspapers and television since there are a lot public interest programmes in Croatia. In Australia in the 1980s, I woud only watch, at most, a few hours per week whereas now I watch 10 hours per day (almost all of it whilst doing other tasks).

Sandi C.
Sandi C6 years ago


Alex H.
Alex H6 years ago

Technology is very convenient but it is also destroying our world!It is turning our kids into detached,unevolved zombies who can't analyse information,can't add up,need constant stimulation and entertainment and have very short attention spans.Teenagers are a nightmare as employees,because of the above reasons.At our business,cell phones are banned and placed in a box while the person is at work.No constant checking the phone for messages and no texting!!I am sick of cars suddenly veering into the kerb in front of me,because the cell phone is ringing,and of course,it must be answered!People are walking into poles and falling off station platforms because they are too busy with their phone!What kind of world are we in!?In South Korea,there are two million game addicts who can spend 2 and 3 days in a game cafe,without a break!Serious illness is their guaranteed outcome!I will never own a cell/mobile phone because they are unhealthy and dangerous,and literally take you over!Telcos are making billions out of this idiocy so how stupid are people??!!

Aurea Walker

China has had rehab centers for young kids to go to where for 90 days they are blocked from any and all interaction with computers. We need to have that here in the USA, kids need to be outdoors and play and interact with each other. "treat a child like a child when they are a child"