Techno-Addiction of the Citizen Warrior

"Irresistible" explores how technology is addictive--on purpose.
“Irresistible” explores how Silicon Valley designs tech to be addictive. Photo by Ethan Imaap

“Never Get High on Your Own Supply.” That’s how “Irresistible, The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked” kicks off. The author then lists all the Silicon Valley bigwigs who not only limit their children’s screen time but, in certain instances, outright prohibit it. They supply their kids with endless books, but they know that language learning and socialization in children, and sexuality in teenagers, all get short-circuited by screen time. Digital technology changes the brain.

Author Adam Alter (“alter” as in change?) references each psychological study used in his discussions as well as its underlying history. It’s interesting reading and imperative that citizen warriors maintain an ongoing awareness of technological “progression.” Science evolves. The next question leads to the next hypothesis, which leads to the next experiment or study. Science modelers often produce results that reflect the biases of whomever or whatever supplied the research and development funding. And government-backed research is certainly not immune to producing conclusions that only support the ideals of one side of the aisle. If we don’t follow along at home, we’ll miss the chance to defeat the technology meant to subjugate us to our not-so-benevolent techno-overlords.

Those of us under the boot heel of big-tech censorship will be lured into reading further once we discover that these tech giants protect their offspring from the very devices they push on an unsuspecting public. However, the author also presents information we won’t want to hear. People in politically conservative states with more religious underpinnings, for example, tend to access pornography more frequently than those living on the seemingly secular and hedonistic coasts. According to psychologists, repression of human sexuality doesn’t work. The concepts of God wanting one of his greatest gifts to remain a thing of special value and of mankind learning self-discipline and to delay gratification doesn’t enter into the discussion. You have to ask yourself, which culture in America is more undermined by access to free pornography and the resultant inability to maintain sexual relations with the opposite sex?

The end game then is not just perpetual consumerism; its to instill an incessant drive to know more, to experience more, to design our bodies, to control our health and even our lifespans through mind-machine connections. Overriding God, playing God, eating from the Tree of Life may have its appeal, but you can bet someone other than a patriot gets to determine the parameters. The only thing that puts the brakes on transhumanism, is the application of ethics and morals to how technology is used. Ergo, religion in the crosshairs.

It’s our duty to shore up our own understanding of the war before us, to surround ourselves with good people and strong communities, and to face what can be a scary projected future. I’d like to hole up somewhere and crusade for the destruction of all digital technology from clothes dryers that can’t sense when something is still wet to the concept of downloading my brain into a machine so I can tinker with God’s creation, but I’m not fond of ceding the battlefield. We don’t have to engage, but we have to be present and prepared to challenge every level of technological so-called advancement. We’re going to need divine intervention to help us discern good technology applications from bad, moral from immoral, because it’s all a psyop at this point.

In “Irresistible,” Alter introduces us to the very real elements of technology that are keeping us fettered. He relates the histories of both physical and behavioral addiction and how it’s akin to being in love with an experience but without any emotional support in return. In this abusive relationship you may be so obsessed with working out that you’re continually giving yourself stress fractures and other injuries because you’re addicted to bettering your results from last week on your fitness app. It might be that you’re so obsessed with a video game or Netflix binge-watching that you’re foregoing sleep and proper hygiene, or you can’t pay the mortgage because you’re addicted to online shopping. The Internet, screen devices, and apps are all designed to keep you hooked on the experience. Your brain is seeking; it finds; it gives itself a chemical reward.

Digital engineers also tap into your desire to better yourself. By nature, humans may want to laze around and not do much, but we know we will feel better if we accomplish something. Only with the advent of apps to help us reach our objectives, nobody thought to include recovery or downtime. There’s a reason God wants us to rest one day a week. What scientists discovered is that we spend more time in pursuit than we do enjoying the fruits of our labors. One goal down, on to the next. Once you reach one level of that computer game, you’ll quickly dive in for the next. It’s not only that you can thereby be exposed to more ads; you will spend more time on your screen with the lights, the instant feedback, the social interaction, thereby happily enslaved, impotent to affect societal change, comfortably numb.

Speaking of feedback and progress: Those are methods by which you learn without being instructed or shown. You learn by doing. You fail to pass a level on a game,  you succeed the next time because the challenge was designed to be just right, not too easy, not too hard. You sign up for online learning and a pie chart or bar graph continually reminds you of your progress, gently prodding you for not doing more sooner, tapping into your competitive drive. Then there’s escalation, the tempo, the music, the “almost had it” sensation that keeps you shackled to your device by, of all things, your own psychology to win, to get the badge, climb the leaderboard. You’ll be a happy subject because your life will be a frenetic game of seek and find, desire and accomplish, want and consumption.

Incessant cliffhangers, by the way, are how Netflix gets you to binge-watch, how authors get you to buy the next book in the series, how song worms get stuck in your head. We want a beginning, a middle, and an end, a logical resolution to the experience we just agreed to accompany the creator on. Investigative podcasts of serial murders that never come to a conclusion keep people hooked. Love it or hate it, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. Tip: Stop each show before the cliffhanger or just after the resolution of the cliffhanger in the next episode, and go to bed.

Whether you need a lot or a little social interaction, we’re all hard-wired for human contact. According to research, we can’t be positive of our self-worth so we look for confirmation from others, and if it’s inconsistent, it bothers us. To compound that we take negative correction harder than we appreciate positive encouragement. We strive for the perfect balance of fitting in and being unique. Count your blessings if you came of age pre-Internet and experienced plenty of affirming human interactions in person. On the ground, face-to-face, handshakes and hugs, is how we regain our bearings, as humans and as warriors. If digital technology interferes with our human abilities, then it hampers our ability to sense our connection to each other and to God. It could also hamper our ability to sense danger and evil.

Digital amnesia stems from not being able to memorize or recall even a child’s phone number. We don’t even try because we can just look it up on our phones. Although not covered in this book, GPS is like a strong magnet too close to our internal compass. Add to that the latest challenge to mapping reality: deep fakes of satellite imagery, and you start to wonder if tech gurus want us literally and figuratively lost.  Our decreasing ability to pay attention for sustained periods of time is a fallout of constantly zipping around to various sites and apps, living at a sped-up pace and never actually accomplishing anything. In the course of writing this article, I’ve wanted to stop countless times to look something up online, to answer the dings of incoming messages, to hammer the device playing videos in the next room.

So, what’s the solution? Obviously, we can’t abstain from screens altogether, especially since more and more of us earn our living through a computer or other digital device. There are some things we can do to minimize the damage. Alter provides timelines for how much exposure and to what type of digital programming children should be exposed. It is imperative that parents and grandparents provide real-world examples in correlation to their online counterparts. Read paper books, do puzzles, ride bikes, for example, to show the real-world versions of what kids see on the screen.

We have to replace our bad habits with good ones. The cue, the habit itself, and the reward comprise the addiction. The trick, theoretically, is to change the habit while the cue and reward remain the same. Military psychologist believed that heroine-addicted service members returning from Vietnam would remain heroine addicts stateside. It didn’t happen. Surrounded by family, striving to build a civilian career, away from the conditions that led them to become addicted in the first place, all factored into their escape from addiction.

Tip: Under no circumstances should your cell phone be in your bedroom, nor should it be present when socializing with real people. Consider it an enemy spy. Imprison it in an ammo can—yes, that does work—and only take it out if you want to interrogate it. No, shutting it off won’t disable it. Either you capture it or it will capture you. Godspeed.

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