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Informing yourself to death

Obsession with Internet Browsing and Social Sites

News  Computer-related Variants of (OCD) Books Recommended Links Workagolism Addiction to the process of getting/collecting information   Sleep Deprivation
Drinking from a firehose Burnout Work overload

Mental Overload

Drowning in Paperwork Humor Etc

"On-line service is not as reliable as cocaine or alcohol, but in the contemporary world, it is a fairly reliable way of shifting consciousness.... Compulsive gamblers are also drawn to the tug of war between mastery and luck.  When this attraction becomes an obsession, the computer junkie resembles the intemperate gambler....

Unlike stamp collecting or reading, computers are a psycho-stimulant, and a certain segment of the population can develop addictive behavior in response to that stimulant."Dr. Shaffer( Harvard)The Addiction Letter, August, 1995)

According to Wikipedia

Information addiction is a condition whereby connected users experience a hit of pleasure, stimulation and escape and technology affects attention span, creativity and focus[1] which has been referred to as pseudo-attention deficit disorder[1].

While it is certainly possible for information addiction exist without computer (bibliophils, overeager library users, etc are an example), computer make it mass problem. One of the most common case is related to compulsive "sitting" on Internet many hours a day and abandoning all other tasks and responsibilities.

Some improperly call it Internet addiction disorder. Which more properly should be called compulsive behavior (or bad habit), not an addition:

IAD was originally proposed as a disorder in a satirical hoax by Ivan Goldberg, M.D., in 1995.[2] He took pathological gambling as diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as his model for the description[3] of IAD. It is not, however, included in the current DSM as of 2009. IAD receives coverage in the press, and possible future classification as a psychological disorder continues to be debated and researched.

Online activities which, if done in person, would normally be considered troublesome, such as compulsive gambling or shopping, are sometimes called net compulsions.[4] Others, such as reading or playing computer games, are troubling only to the extent that these activities interfere with normal life. Supporters of disorder classification often divide IAD into subtypes by activity, such as:

Opponents note that compulsive behaviors may not themselves be addictive.[10]

Some people are addicted to browsing Web literally informing your themselves to death and spending behind the computer for 10 or more hours a day. For such persons, browsing replaces most of other activities and serves as a substitute of TV. It is not uncommon for them to be sitting in front of the computer for four or more  hours straight on Saturday or Sunday.  Still it has some common triats with addtio Internet addiction disorder  (Wikipedia):

... The Internet has tremendous potential to affect the emotions of humans and in turn, alter our self-perception and anxiety levels.[23][24]

According to Maressa Orzack, director of the Computer Addiction Study at Harvard University's McLean Hospital, between 5% and 10% of Web surfers suffer some form of Web dependency.[25]

According to the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery (whose director is Kimberly S. Young,[26] a researcher who has lobbied for the recognition of net abuse as a distinct clinical disorder), "Internet addicts ... often use the fantasy world of the Internet to psychologically escape unpleasant feelings or stressful situations."[27]

People with "web browsing compulsion" tend to lose all sense of time when they are on-line. They are drawn so deeply into the world of bytes and bits that they do not notice entire days passing by. They forget to eat, sleep, go to school, communicate with family members and even care for their children.

In this sense they remind compulsive computer gamers.

Like compulsive computer gamers they shirk responsibilities, slack off at work, and miss appointments because they are unable to pull themselves away.  We will call them Netslaves Type II (to distinguish them from  Netslaves Type I described in books by Bill Lessard, Steve Baldwin NetSlaves: True Tales of Working the Web

In a way, when the virtual world and the real world are competing for their attention, the virtual world wins.

Some connect this to so called Pseudo-attention deficit disorder. You might have Pseudo-attention deficit disorder if:

It is a different symptom then the fact that some IT positions are burning hot which truly proves that they are part of hell ;-). Here people are explicitly or implicitly forced to work long hours (Net Slaves type I, so to speak) and the load is work related. There is a great push to 'become' more efficient. Sometimes that  means 80 hour work weeks.

Information technology, in fact, often diminishes workplace efficiency. Scientific American ("Taking Computers to Task," July 1997) pointed out that despite the $1 trillion spent annually across the globe,

"productivity growth measured in the seven richest nations has instead fallen precipitously in the last 30 years ... Most of the economic growth can be explained by increased employment, trade and production capacity. Computers' contributions, in contrast, nearly vanish in the noise."


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[Nov 23, 2016] Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It

Nov 23, 2016 | tech.slashdot.org
(nytimes.com) 184 Posted by msmash on Monday November 21, 2016 @12:20PM from the dilemma dept.

The New York Times ran a strong opinion piece that talks about one critical reason why everyone should quit social media: your career is dependent on it. The other argues that by spending time on social media and sharing our thoughts, we are demeaning the value of our work, our ideas . (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source .)

Select excerpts from the story follows:

In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.

Professional success is hard, but it's not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. [...] Interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find you.

To be clear, I'm not arguing that new opportunities and connections are unimportant. I'm instead arguing that you don't need social media's help to attract them. My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it's engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it's designed to be used -- persistently throughout your waking hours -- the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won't tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate -- the skill on which I make my living.

A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.

[Jul 24, 2015] How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

Jul 24, 2015 | The New York Times

A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.

These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health?

That possibility intrigued Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, who has been studying the psychological effects of urban living. In an earlier study published last month, he and his colleagues found that volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic.

But that study did not examine the neurological mechanisms that might underlie the effects of being outside in nature.

So for the new study, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Bratman and his collaborators decided to closely scrutinize what effect a walk might have on a person's tendency to brood.

Brooding, which is known among cognitive scientists as morbid rumination, is a mental state familiar to most of us, in which we can't seem to stop chewing over the ways in which things are wrong with ourselves and our lives. This broken-record fretting is not healthy or helpful. It can be a precursor to depression and is disproportionately common among city dwellers compared with people living outside urban areas, studies show.

Perhaps most interesting for the purposes of Mr. Bratman and his colleagues, however, such rumination also is strongly associated with increased activity in a portion of the brain known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex.

If the researchers could track activity in that part of the brain before and after people visited nature, Mr. Bratman realized, they would have a better idea about whether and to what extent nature changes people's minds.

Mr. Bratman and his colleagues first gathered 38 healthy, adult city dwellers and asked them to complete a questionnaire to determine their normal level of morbid rumination.

The researchers also checked for brain activity in each volunteer's subgenual prefrontal cortex, using scans that track blood flow through the brain. Greater blood flow to parts of the brain usually signals more activity in those areas.

Then the scientists randomly assigned half of the volunteers to walk for 90 minutes through a leafy, quiet, parklike portion of the Stanford campus or next to a loud, hectic, multi-lane highway in Palo Alto. The volunteers were not allowed to have companions or listen to music. They were allowed to walk at their own pace.

Immediately after completing their walks, the volunteers returned to the lab and repeated both the questionnaire and the brain scan.

As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people's minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged.

But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

They also had less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. That portion of their brains were quieter.

These results "strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments" could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers, Mr. Bratman said.

But of course many questions remain, he said, including how much time in nature is sufficient or ideal for our mental health, as well as what aspects of the natural world are most soothing. Is it the greenery, quiet, sunniness, loamy smells, all of those, or something else that lifts our moods? Do we need to be walking or otherwise physically active outside to gain the fullest psychological benefits? Should we be alone or could companionship amplify mood enhancements?

"There's a tremendous amount of study that still needs to be done," Mr. Bratman said.

But in the meantime, he pointed out, there is little downside to strolling through the nearest park, and some chance that you might beneficially muffle, at least for awhile, your subgenual prefrontal cortex.

[Apr 20, 2015] Colleagues Addicted to Tech

Apr 20, 2015 | NYTimes.com

Discussing Bad Work Situations

I have been in my present position for over 25 years. Five years ago, I was assigned a new boss, who has a reputation in my industry for harassing people in positions such as mine until they quit. I have managed to survive, but it's clear that it's time for me to move along. How should I answer the inevitable interview question: Why would I want to leave after so long? I've heard that speaking badly of a boss is an interview no-no, but it really is the only reason I'm looking to find something new. BROOKLYN

I am unemployed and interviewing for a new job. I have read that when answering interview questions, it's best to keep everything you say about previous work experiences or managers positive.

But what if you've made one or two bad choices in the past: taking jobs because you needed them, figuring you could make it work — then realizing the culture was a bad fit, or you had an arrogant, narcissistic boss?

Nearly everyone has had a bad work situation or boss. I find it refreshing when I read stories about successful people who mention that they were fired at some point, or didn't get along with a past manager. So why is it verboten to discuss this in an interview? How can the subject be addressed without sounding like a complainer, or a bad employee? CHICAGO

As these queries illustrate, the temptation to discuss a negative work situation can be strong among job applicants. But in both of these situations, and in general, criticizing a current or past employer is a risky move. You don't have to paint a fictitiously rosy picture of the past, but dwelling on the negative can backfire. Really, you don't want to get into a detailed explanation of why you have or might quit at all. Instead, you want to talk about why you're such a perfect fit for the gig you're applying for.

So, for instance, a question about leaving a long-held job could be answered by suggesting that the new position offers a chance to contribute more and learn new skills by working with a stronger team. This principle applies in responding to curiosity about jobs that you held for only a short time.

It's fine to acknowledge a misstep. But spin the answer to focus on why this new situation is such an ideal match of your abilities to the employer's needs.

The truth is, even if you're completely right about the past, a prospective employer doesn't really want to hear about the workplace injustices you've suffered, or the failings of your previous employer. A manager may even become concerned that you will one day add his or her name to the list of people who treated you badly. Save your cathartic outpourings for your spouse, your therapist, or, perhaps, the future adoring profile writer canonizing your indisputable success.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

‘China’s Web Junkies’ - NYTimes.com

Compulsive Internet use has been categorized as a mental health issue in many countries, including the United States, but China was among the first to label “Internet addiction” a clinical disorder.

In this Op-Doc video, we show the inner workings of a rehabilitation center where Chinese teenagers are “deprogrammed.” The Internet Addiction Treatment Center, in Daxing, a suburb of Beijing, was established in 2004. It was one of the first of its kind – and there are now hundreds of treatment programs throughout China and South Korea. (The first inpatient Internet addiction program in the United States recently opened in Pennsylvania.)

The program featured in this video admits teenagers, usually male, whose parents typically take them there against their will. Once inside, the children are kept behind bars and guarded by soldiers. Treatment, which often lasts three to four months, includes medication and therapy, and sometimes includes parents. Patients undergo military-inspired physical training, and their sleep and diet are carefully regulated. These techniques (some of which are also used in China to treat other behavioral disorders) are intended to help the patients reconnect with reality.

Yet after four months of filming in this center (for our documentary “Web Junkie”), some vital questions remained: Are the children being accurately evaluated? And is the treatment effective? In many cases, it seemed parents were blaming the Internet for complex social and behavioral issues that may defy such interventions. (For example, we noticed that some patients experienced difficult family relationships, social introversion and a lack of friends in the physical world.) Tao Ran, the center’s director, claims a 70 percent success rate. If that’s true, perhaps China’s treatment model is something other nations should embrace, however disturbing it may seem to outsiders. There is still no real global consensus among experts about what constitutes addiction to the Internet, and whether the concept even exists, particularly in a strict medical sense.

What is clear is that this issue is not confined to China. With millions (if not billions) glued to screens and electronic devices, the overuse of technology is becoming a universal, transnational concern. While treatment methods may vary, one way or another, we will need to find effective ways to moderate our use of technology and provide help to those who need it.

This video is part of a series produced by independent filmmakers who have received support from the nonprofit Sundance Institute.

Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia are the directors of the forthcoming documentary “Web Junkie,” which will have its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

[Jun 01, 2013] Obsessive Web Browsing Linked to Depression by By Rick Nauert PhD

February 5, 2010 | Psych Central News

A new large-scale study discovers a link between spending a lot of time browsing the Internet and depressive symptoms.

University of Leeds psychologists found striking evidence that some users have developed a compulsive Internet habit, whereby they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.

The results suggest that this type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health.

Lead author Dr. Catriona Morrison, from the University of Leeds, said: “The Internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side.

“While many of us use the Internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities.”

These ‘Internet addicts’ spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than non-addicted users

[Jun 01, 2013] How do I break my compulsive web browsing habit

Phaelin

I can't stop mindless net browsing. Checking the same sites over and over again, sometimes clicking the bookmark for the page I'm already on. It's ridiculous. HOW DO I QUIT? 9/18/12 7:27am

vyralsurfer

I tended to do the same thing a while back. To solve this issue (and yes, I've also clicked on my Lifehacker bookmark...while reading a Lifehacker article), I setup a Google Reader account bringing in the RSS feeds from Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Memebase, etc... When I have a free moment, I check my Reader account and look through the articles. If I only have a few minutes, I'll open the ones that look interesting and save them in my Pocket (getpocket.com). When my reader account is empty, and I have no saved articles in my Pocket, I close the browser and force my self to find something else to do. Give it a try! I resisted RSS feeds for so long, partially because I didn't understand the power they hold :) 9/18/12 7:41am

JSWilson64_g

So, I know the post is about stuff you're not doing at your desk, but...

You know that adjustable stem? Now that you have your bike's fit dialed in, you should go down to the bike shop (or online) and get yourself a stem with the reach and angle that matches what you have setup. It'll be lighter and one less thing to go wrong. 9/18/12 9:53am

[Sep 03, 2012] Overcoming Information Addiction by Brad Bollenbach

The beauty of aimless internet reading, linguistically graceful internet flame wars, and social media popularity contests is that you can’t fail at them. Even if engaging in these activities causes you to fail at whatever you were supposed to be doing, you can just blame it on all that wandering around the Web 2.0 theme park. It certainly sounds a lot better than, “I tried everything I could to fix this bug, but I still can’t figure it out.”
My solution to dealing with this mess is what I call a 30-Day Information Fast.
Personal Development Blog - 30 sleeps

This (mildly exaggerated) description of my own dependence on unimportant information is not uncommon. But why does it happen? When you drill down to the deepest layers of information addiction, what do you find?

You might have thought you hit bottom when you saw chunks of job disinterest, aversion to boring tasks, and a substance resembling Nothing Better To Do. But a few inches below that, you find the real crust wrapped around the core of an information junkie:

Fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of life itself.

The beauty of aimless internet reading, linguistically graceful internet flame wars, and social media popularity contests is that you can’t fail at them. Even if engaging in these activities causes you to fail at whatever you were supposed to be doing, you can just blame it on all that wandering around the Web 2.0 theme park. It certainly sounds a lot better than, “I tried everything I could to fix this bug, but I still can’t figure it out.”

And it’s way easier to just drag your feet through the mud known as your Day Job (TM), than to risk giving your notice and heading off into the unknown in search of a better life.

Information is an analgesic. It not only dulls the pain involved in actually Getting Shit Done, but if you do it right, it actually feels like you’re doing something, instead of avoiding doing something.

My Story of Addiction

I’m exaggerating my information addiction slightly. After all, every man, woman, child, and fetus has a Facebook account, but I don’t. I’m not on MySpace either. I don’t do instant messaging at all, except to talk to paying clients on software consulting gigs. And while I’m usually found on IRC, I rarely pay attention to it.

But I’d be lying to pretend that I don’t throw a few balls down the gutter every now and then. My most recent slip-up came about a month ago, when I ordered Food Network as a way to help me learn cooking.

What started off as awe and admiration at Jamie Oliver’s ability to create amazing dishes from fresh ingredients grown right in his own backyard, morphed into an interest in Australian Open tennis and World Matchplay Darts. Oh, and what’s that? A documentary series on sex workers in California? And lookie here, it’s even running right after Poker After Dark on another channel. How convenient!

The distraction began with TV and, as my brain started getting accustomed to idleness, snowballed into other non-activities. Before I knew it, I was spending entire days swinging from one vine of useless information to another.

The Solution

The irony of information overload and addiction is the sheer volume of information available on these topics. For example, when I Google for “information overload”, I see over 1.5 million matches.

My solution to dealing with this mess is what I call a 30-Day Information Fast.

You’ve probably already heard the term “Low-Information Diet”, popularized by Tim Ferriss. As the name implies, an Information Fast takes things a step further. The key behind this solution is to completely cut off all attention-draining inputs with no exceptions, but to do so for only a limited period of time. The point of total withdrawal is, obviously, to reclaim the time and attention lost to unnecessary diversions, but also to help you discover which of those things are actually important to you. You’ll know you gave up something important when you keep wanting to reach for it to help you solve a problem you’re working on, or when, even after a full 30 days without it, you’re eager to catch up on what you missed.

The rules during the 30-Day Information Fast are as follows:

Feel free to tweak this list to suit your needs, in particular by adding things that I haven’t mentioned, but which affect you. If you want to remove things from this list because you “can’t live without them”, that’s a sign that you’re probably cheating. :)

Of course, I’m still going to publish new content during this time. In fact, this 30-day trial is intended to improve my chances of attaining my goals for expanding the quality and reach of my writing over the next month.

This challenge is not particularly meant to extend beyond the 30 days. It’s merely an attempt to create a space in which to think deeply about your life and your purpose, to replace distraction with action, and to let the truly meaningful uses of your time bubble up to the surface of your attention.

The Chemistry of Information Addiction

Scientific American

Contemporary theories of reinforcement learning are rooted in the dopaminergic reward system. Dopamine neurons in parts of the midbrain, such as the ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra pars compacta, play a vital role in the expectation of reward. Most of what is known about these neurons comes from electrode recording experiments with rhesus monkeys. Not surprisingly, these neurons respond to primitive rewards, such as food and water. They signal a monkey’s expectation of rewards, but what was not known until now is whether these same neurons might also signal expectation of information.

To test for this preference for information, which is a cognitive reward, a new paradigm needed to be put in place. Ethan Bromberg-Martin and Okihide Hikosaka, both at the National Eye Institute, developed a brilliant behavioral task that opened the door.

MediaShift . Get a Life. Figuring Blog Obsession

PBS

Now, in some ways, I should be obsessed with my blog to some extent. Unlike the vast majority of bloggers, I am actually being paid to blog as a job, and I'm the sole watcher and editor of comments posted to my blog. So I should check in to make sure spam messages haven't been posted (as they were so inconveniently last Friday night), or that personal attacks haven't broken out all over. But every hour? Every few hours? When do I get a break?

I was curious what other bloggers might think, so I pinged Kevin Drum, another paid-to-blog guy who writes the liberal Political Animal blog for the Washington Monthly. My question was simple: How do you keep your blog from taking over your life?

Here's what Kevin said by reply via email:

I don't! However, since it's my full-time job, I have less incentive than most to worry about this. My short answer is: get out of the house. This may just be me, but when I'm in the house, even if I'm doing something else, the computer is always beckoning. After a few minutes I get itchy. Any new email? Has any news broken? Did someone post something interesting in the past few minutes?

But if I'm out of the house, I usually forget about the blog completely. I don't even think about it until I step in from the garage, at which point I suddenly feel a deep urge to make a beeline for the computer. Alternatively, I guess I could just turn off the computer now and then. But that seems rather drastic, doesn't it?

OK, simple advice. Get out of the house, get away from computers, and try the "out of sight, out of mind" approach. But what happens if you have a Treo or other connected handheld device where you could easily check email or blog comments at any time?

"I am completely electronics free when I leave the house," Drum says. "I don't even take a cell phone unless I have some special reason to think I might need it...It definitely allows me to keep my mind off the e-world and on whatever I happen to be doing in real life."

It seems like the electronics and online world are encroaching on all our previously quiet moments, so consciously disconnecting will become a necessity to keep our sanity.

If you write a blog, what do you do to keep from obsessing over it? How do you delineate blog time from real down time? If you don't write a blog, what other online obsessions do you have, and how do you break them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Stop Compulsive Web Surfing by Mike

April 27, 2010 | The Great Office Escape

2 Comments

“If I only had more time in the day I could really make headway on this project…”

I’ve heard this one before. I’m sure you’ve even muttered words similar to these. With the explosive birth of social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, iPhone Apps, Blogging etc.) it’s becoming more and more difficult to focus on anything. This is especially true if you are doing the majority of your work on a computer, where the net is just a click away. This description likely fits you, as you are reading this post online. And since this site is called “The Great Office Escape” you probably are also looking for ways to improve your professional life!

I have a great suggestion for you: stop surfing the web. If this means closing this browser after reading this post, so be it. In fact, I’m actually going to tell you to make this your last web-surfing activity of the day. But more on that later.

Why You Should Quit Surfing

1. You’ll save a lot of time – This goes without saying. If you only surf 15-20 minutes a day, it isn’t a big deal. But 15-20 minutes a day is 2 hours a week. That adds up. What could you be doing with that time otherwise?

2. You won’t retain much of what you readMost idle surfing is just a replacement activity for boredom. While it may seem like you are learning or taking in information, studies show that you are likely to either forget most of what you “learn” or never have much of a use for it anyway.

3. It drains your energy – How many of you seriously feel like doing work on your computer after you’ve spent an hour looking through Facebook photos? Not many, I’d assume. This is because you’ve already spent a lot of your energy staring at your screen. Your reserves are taxed, and you haven’t accomplished anything. It’s best to do your work first, then surf if you must.

Methods to Quit Surfing

1. Replace idle surfing with active surfing – Idle surfing is surfing the web without a purpose. This is akin to going downtown and driving around aimlessly, wasting gas and looking at all the storefronts. It’s much, much better to use the net to learn or to obtain useful information. If you are doing research on how to escape your 9-to-5 job, that’s active surfing because it has a purpose. (I hope that’s why you are here!)

So drive back home with your head held high and think about what you need downtown before you go there again.

2. Schedule a time to surf – This actually works wonders. When you get up in the morning and you have the urge to go through all your favorite sites, tell yourself “I will not do this until noon, and then only until 12:30.” If you force your surfing time to a certain time of the day, you’ll probably find that when the time comes you’ll do more active surfing (instead of passive surfing) because there are likely things you will realize that you need to do as the time gets closer.

3. Check and respond to your e-mail only twice a day – 9am and again at 1pm. These are good hours to check and respond to e-mail. Any more than this and you are probably just looking at an empty mailbox and driving yourself batty.

4. Do pushups – Yup. You heard me. Every time you view a webpage that is a result of passive surfing, do 5 pushups. If you view 10 pages, that’s 50 pushups. Soon you’ll be so tired that you won’t be able to type. This goes under the self-punishment category, but it works!

5. Close your browser – After you are finished reading this post I want you to try something. Exit this website (after bookmarking it, of course!) close your browser, and your computer, and don’t go online the rest of the day. If you have honest-to-goodness work to do, go ahead and do your work, but if not – turn it all off.

I know this sounds a bit extreme, but if you can train yourself to stop the surfing process instantaneously the middle, you can break the habit.

Ready? Go!

[Sep 01, 2012] Mother Obsessed with Computer Game Neglects Kids, Starves Dogs - Crimesider - CBS News

September 14, 2010 | cbsnews.com

NEW YORK (CBS/CNET) A U.K. mom who reportedly neglected her three kids and let her dogs starve to death because she was so obsessed with an online computer game, admitted in court to child cruelty and animal neglect.

According to The Daily Mail, the mother became so immersed in the game that she failed to feed her children any hot food and allowed her German shepherd and lurcher to die of starvation.

The woman, who has not been named by police, was taken to court after a neighbor looked through the window of her house and saw the unspeakable living conditions, according to the British paper.

During the case, prosecutors said that when investigators finally entered her house, the woman said of her dead dogs, which had been left rotting for two months, "I probably starved them, probably because I have been playing the computer game all the time."

Prosecutors said "she started playing initially for an hour a day in late 2009, but since August of that year it had become an obsession to the point where she was only getting two hours sleep a night," The Daily Mail reported.

Because the woman didn't want to waste any of her gaming time on cooking, she reportedly made her kids eat only food that didn't require heating, including making them swallow baked beans straight from the can, due to the lack of spoons.

According to The Daily Mail, her defense lawyer explained that she had been devastated by the sudden death of her husband and that she had become addicted to a game.

Which game she was addicted to remains in dispute. The Daily Mail included pictures of a game called "Small World," but CNET reports that the company behind that game says it has nothing to do with this case, and instead suggests the similarly named "Small Worlds" may be the game in question.

The U.K. mother was given a suspended sentence of six months, reports the newspaper. She also has to do 75 hours of unpaid work, was banned from ever having pets, and has had access to a computer forbidden. Her children, ages 9, 10, and 13, are currently with child protective services.

[Sep 01, 2012] HOOKED ON THE WEB: While Internet addiction is not yet recognized by psychiatrists, cyberspace compulsives obviously need a large dose of reality by Vicki Haddock

December 10, 2006 | sfgate.com
A young mother logs 12 hours a day on her laptop, perusing chat rooms and dating sites while neglecting her children until she loses custody of them. Teenagers turn down invitations to real social events in order to pull Red Bull-fueled all-nighters playing fantasy warcraft games online. An IBM employee -- reportedly fired for spending work hours visiting a sexually explicit chat room -- sues the company for failing to provide counseling for his "Internet addiction."

But is the Internet really addictive? Do some people come to regard the frenetic clicking as seductive hits on the cyberspace crack pipe?

Or is this mere psychobabble, evidence of our tendency to label any outside-the-norm behaviors as a pathology, and our willingness to proclaim addiction to almost anything: chocolate, or foreign oil, or shoe shopping.

The very term "Internet Addiction Disorder" was coined as a parody -- a hoax created 11 years ago by New York City psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg, who posted it on a Web bulletin board to amuse fellow psychiatrists. Replicating the lingo of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, he concocted symptoms including "fantasies or dreams about the Internet," and "involuntary typing movements of the fingers."

When several colleagues e-mailed in all seriousness seeking help, he obliged by creating an online support group, which, it was quickly noted, was akin to convening an AA meeting in a bar. Soon, hundreds of self-diagnosed addicts responded, including one who claimed to have worn out his computer keyboard in less than a year. Not long afterward, a bemused Goldberg admitted to reporters that there was no such thing as Internet addiction.

"It makes it sound as if one were dealing with heroin, a truly addicting substance that can alter almost every cell in the body. To medicalize every behavior by putting it into psychiatric nomenclature is ridiculous," Goldberg told the New Yorker in 1997.

To this day, Internet addiction has no official recognition in the psychiatric world, although there are practitioners lobbying for that status, and thriving centers have been established to treat it. Internet addiction has yet to earn disorder status in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual.

"I would not at this point rule it out, but I would say it's just way too early to conclude there is such a thing as Internet addiction. The media has gotten way ahead of the science here," said psychiatry Professor Elias Aboujaoude, who led a Stanford survey to analyze Internet use in the general population. His cautions didn't stop dozens of newspapers covering the study this autumn from reporting that it had documented "Internet addiction."

What the researchers did find from their random survey of 2,500 adults was that 14 percent of computer users found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time, 9 percent tried to conceal their Internet habit from family, friends and employers, and 6 percent acknowledged their use was causing their relationships to suffer.

So, some Internet users exhibited some symptoms similar to those seen in recognized addictions. Many questions remain, including whether Internet abusers have another undiagnosed condition, such as chronic depression or social phobia, that is manifesting itself in unhealthy screen time. The Stanford researchers are designing as their next experiment face-to-face follow-up interviews -- an attempt to tease out the causes and effects of Internet use.

"What is normal and what isn't normal? As psychiatrists we can make terrible mistakes trying to determine that," Aboujaoude said. "If someone is spending five hours a day online but is happy and successful and responsible, with (a) loving relationship, who am I to say they have a problem? The danger isn't how many hours a day somebody spends on the computer -- it's whether we can see signs of distress in their lives because of it."

Certain substances, like cocaine, methamphetamines and alcohol, work on neurotransmitter pathways in the brain and can produce true physiological addiction, including cravings, dependency and withdrawal. But psychiatry classifies other problems as symptoms of impulse-control disorder, including kleptomania and compulsive hair pulling.

Some experts predict that if Internet abuse does make it into the psychiatric association's diagnostic manual, it will be not as an addiction but as an impulse-control disorder. Even Goldberg has proposed, seriously this time, to name it "Pathological Computer Use Disorder" and apply it to cases where computer overuse causes people distress and/or hurts their "physical, psychological, interpersonal, marital, economic or social functioning." He likens it to workaholism or to a disorder that actually has cracked the psychiatric associations' diagnostic manual: pathological gambling.

As defined by the psychiatric manual, pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder that is a chronic and progressive mental illness, characterized by preoccupation, more intensity required for the same "rush," withdrawal, escape, lying about gambling to others and so forth, as well as the fact that the patient may have a lack of norepinephrine, a hormone in the brain that controls impulsive behavior.

Some of those pushing for official recognition for Internet addiction used that description as a model for their own criteria, which failed to impress critics such as John Grohol, founder of PsychCentral -- a Web site on mental health.

"Do these two dissimilar areas have much in common beyond their face value? I don't see it," Grohol observed. "I don't know of any other disorder currently being researched where the researchers, showing all the originality of a trash romance novel writer, simply "borrowed" the diagnostic symptom criteria for an unrelated disorder, made a few changes, and declared the existence of a new disorder. If this sounds absurd, it's because it is."

But others argue the parallels are too real to ignore.

One of the true believers is Maressa Hecht Orzack, a Harvard-affiliated psychologist who began playing on the Net to relieve stress. "Initially I noticed that I was spending too much time on computer games such as solitaire and cruel," she wrote. "I became so absorbed in games that I neglected or delayed meeting various personal obligations. I stayed up too late. This led me to realize that behavior of this kind could be an addiction."

Given her years of using cognitive behavior therapy to treat addictive behaviors and impulse control disorders, she made the connection to her own computer use and helped establish the Computer Addiction Service at McLean Hospital.

"Unlike gambling, people must be able to use their computers in work or school," she noted. "Therefore, they must learn how to normalize their computer use just as those individuals with eating disorders need to learn to eat in order to survive."

Indeed, advocates say it took years for the world of psychiatry to recognize compulsive gambling as a disorder, and to stop regarding homosexuality as one. In other words, the definition of diagnosis can change with the times.

"Academics for the next couple of decades may still be debating 'Is it an addiction or not?' but the reality is many of us have moved beyond the controversy and we're treating it," said Kimberly Young, who first discussed Internet addiction at an American Psychiatric Association convention in 1996, founded the Center for Online Addiction in Pennsylvania, and wrote the fist book on online addiction, "Caught in the Net." "Whatever label we put on it, I don't know anybody who would argue that the problem doesn't exist," she said.

Nor is the debate mere semantics. Some health insurance plans refuse to cover the costs of treatment unless a diagnosis merits listing in the manual. And there are criminal defense and civil liability ramifications as well, as IBM is discovering in the lawsuit filed by fired "Internet addict" James Pacenza.

More research is under way to determine patterns of Internet abuse -- data that could lead to classifying it as a compulsive disorder and ultimately as an addiction. Whatever the terminology, nobody disputes that the Internet is wreaking havoc on some lives.

With that in mind, the world headquarters of Netaholics Anonymous offers a tongue-in-cheek test to determine whether you might be "caught in the Web." If you name your children Eudora and Mozilla; if you spend plane trips with your laptop on your lap and your child in the overhead compartment; if the last mate you picked as a JPEG? Well, the experts aren't sure what to call it, but let's just say it might be time to get some fresh air.


Signs of obsession

Indicators that your Internet use may spin out of control, according to Stanford researchers:

-- Do you find it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time?

-- Do you often stay online longer than you intended?

-- Have you felt a need to cut back on Internet use?

-- Do you try to conceal your Internet time from family, friends, employers?

-- Do you go online as a way of escaping problems or soothing a bad mood?

-- Have your relationships suffered because of excessive Internet use?

E-mail Vicki Haddock at vhaddock@sfchronicle.com.

[Aug 14, 2009] A letter from a programmer wife

My Dear Husband,

I am sending you this letter via this email thing, just to be sure you read it. Please forgive the deception, but I thought you should know what has been going on at home since your computer entered our lives more then ten years ago.

The children are doing well. Tommy is seven now and is a bright, handsome boy. He has developed quite an interest in the arts. He drew a family portrait for a school project, all the figures were good, and the back of your head is very realistic. You should be very proud of him.

Little Jennifer turned three in September. She looks a lot like you did at that age. She is an attractive child and quite smart. She still remembers that you spent the whole afternoon with us on her birthday. What a grand day for Jenny, despite the fact that it was stormy and the electricity was out.

I am doing well. I went blonde about a year ago, and discovered that it really is more fun! George, I mean, Mr. Wilson, the department head, has taken an interest in my career and has become a good friend to us all.

... ... ...

What Constitutes an Addiction

Computer addicts tend to lose all sense of time when they are on-line. They are drawn so deeply into the world of bytes and bits that they do not notice entire days passing by. They forget to eat, sleep, go to school, and even care for their children. They shirk responsibilities, slack off at work, and miss appointments because they are unable to pull themselves away. The virtual world and the real world are competing for their attention, and the virtual world often wins.

No, the web is not driving us mad

Mind Hacks

Oh Newsweek, what have you done. The cover story in the latest edition is an embarrassing look at non-research that certainly doesn’t suggest that the internet is causing “extreme forms of mental illness”.

The article is a litany of scientific stereotypes and exaggeration:

The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic.

This is an amazing list of mental illnesses supposedly caused by the internet but really Newsweek? Psychosis? A condition ranked by the World Health Organization as the third most disabling health condition there is and one that is only beaten in its ability to disable by total limb paralysis and dementia and that comes ahead of leg paralysis and blindness.

We’re talking schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder here. The mention of psychosis even makes the front page, of one of the most respected news magazines in the world, so this must be pretty striking evidence.

So striking, in fact, that it would probably turn psychiatric research on its head. We have studied the environmental risk factors for psychosis for decades and nothing has suggested that the internet or anything like it would raise the risk of psychosis. This must be amazing new scientific evidence.

So what is the evidence to back up Newsweek’s front page splash: a blog post, a quote and a single case study.

The rest of the article is full of similar howlers.

But the research is now making it clear that the Internet is not “just” another delivery system. It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.

“This is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change,” says Susan Greenfield, a pharmacology professor at Oxford Univer…

Oh Christ.

A 1998 Carnegie Mellon study found that Web use over a two-year period was linked to blue moods, loneliness, and the loss of real-world friends. But the subjects all lived in Pittsburgh, critics sneered.

They didn’t sneer. They looked at the follow-up study, done on the same people, by the same research team, that found that “A 3-year follow-up of 208 of these respondents found that negative effects dissipated”.

As I’ve mentioned before, it is only possible to report on the first of these findings without the second if you’ve not read the research or are aiming for a particular angle. Why? Because if you type ‘internet paradox’, the name of the original study, into Google, the name of the follow-up study – The Internet Paradox Revisited – comes up as the second link.

If you’d read any of the actual literature on the topic, you’d know about the follow-up study because they are two of the most important and some of the few longitudinal studies in the field.

The article also manages the usual neuroscience misunderstandings. The internet ‘rewires the brain’ – which I should hope it does, as every experience ‘rewires the brain’ and if your brain ever stops re-wiring you’ll be dead. Dopamine is described as a reward, which is like mistaking your bank statement for the money.

There are some scattered studies mentioned here and there but without any sort of critical appraisal. Methodological problems with internet addiction studies? No mention. The fact that the whole concept of internet addiction is a category error? Not a whisper. The fact that prevalence has been estimated to vary between 1% and 66% of internet users. Nada

Sadly, these sorts of distorted media portrayals have a genuine impact on the public’s attitudes and beliefs about mental illness.

But perhaps the biggest problem with the article is that it doesn’t include any critical voices. It’s mainly people who have a book to sell or an axe to grind.

The internet will apparently make you psychotic if you only listen to the three people who think so. Or Newsweek, that is.

Totally addicted to web

The Chartered Institute for IT

We're a nation of internet junkies, according to a new survey from consumer website uSwitch.com.

It revealed the average Brit uses the internet for 30 hours a week, a figure described as "astonishing" by the firm.

On average, findings show that a person will spend two hours a day on the net for work and then three hours for pleasure purposes.

According to uSwitch, adults are likely to use the internet in their leisure surf time on social networking sites.

A quarter of those surveyed say they need to use sites like Facebook and Twitter at least once a day.

Young people – that's the 18-24 year olds – are shown to use the net seven hours a day during the week and for five hours during the weekend.

uSwitch bosses say the internet is having a growing impact on the British way of life and could become as important as gas and electricity for quality of life.

That could see the government under even more pressure to provide universal broadband to the whole country.

[July 6, 2003] NYT The Lure of Data Is It Addictive By MATT RICHTEL

These speed demons say they will fall behind if they disconnect, but they also acknowledge feeling something much more powerful: they are compulsively drawn to the constant stimulation provided by incoming data. Call it O.C.D. — online compulsive disorder.

THIS is Charles Lax's brain on speed.

Mr. Lax, a 44-year-old venture capitalist, is sitting in a conference for telecommunications executives at a hotel near Los Angeles, but he is not all here. Out of one ear, he listens to a live presentation about cable television technology; simultaneously, he surfs the Net on a laptop with a wireless connection, while occasionally checking his mobile device — part phone, part pager and part Internet gadget — for e-mail.

Mr. Lax flew from Boston and paid $2,000 to attend the conference, called Vortex. But he cannot unwire himself long enough to give the presenters his complete focus. If he did, he would face a fate worse than lack of productivity: he would become bored.

"It's hard to concentrate on one thing," he said, adding: "I think I have a condition."

The ubiquity of technology in the lives of executives, other businesspeople and consumers has created a subculture of the Always On — and a brewing tension between productivity and freneticism. For all the efficiency gains that it seemingly provides, the constant stream of data can interrupt not just dinner and family time, but also meetings and creative time, and it can prove very tough to turn off.

Some people who are persistently wired say it is not uncommon for them to be sitting in a meeting and using a hand-held device to exchange instant messages surreptitiously — with someone in the same meeting. Others may be sitting at a desk and engaging in conversation on two phones, one at each ear. At social events, or in the grandstand at their children's soccer games, they read news feeds on mobile devices instead of chatting with actual human beings.

These speed demons say they will fall behind if they disconnect, but they also acknowledge feeling something much more powerful: they are compulsively drawn to the constant stimulation provided by incoming data. Call it O.C.D. — online compulsive disorder.

"It's magnetic," said Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard. "It's like a tar baby: the more you touch it, the more you have to."

Dr. Hallowell and John Ratey, an associate professor at Harvard and a psychiatrist with an expertise in attention deficit disorder, are among a growing number of physicians and sociologists who are assessing how technology affects attention span, creativity and focus. Though many people regard multitasking as a social annoyance, these two and others are asking whether it is counterproductive, and even addicting.

The pair have their own term for this condition: pseudo-attention deficit disorder. Its sufferers do not have actual A.D.D., but, influenced by technology and the pace of modern life, have developed shorter attention spans. They become frustrated with long-term projects, thrive on the stress of constant fixes of information, and physically crave the bursts of stimulation from checking e-mail or voice mail or answering the phone.

"It's like a dopamine squirt to be connected," said Dr. Ratey, who compares the sensations created by constantly being wired to those of narcotics — a hit of pleasure, stimulation and escape. "It takes the same pathway as our drugs of abuse and pleasure."

"It's an addiction," he said, adding that some people cannot deal with down time or quiet moments. "Without it, we are in withdrawal."

ACCORDING to research compiled by David E. Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, multitaskers actually hinder their productivity by trying to ash two things at once. Mr. Meyer has found that people who switch back and forth between two tasks, like exchanging e-mail and writing a report, may spend 50 percent more time on those tasks than if they work on them separately, completing one before starting the other.

As a result, Mr. Meyer said, businesspeople who multitask "are making themselves worse businesspeople."

He says little research has been done into why some people are compulsively drawn to multitasking. But he theorizes that the allure has several layers. Multitasking offers a guise of productivity, a "macho" show of ashment, and similarities to a quick amphetamine rush.

"It's related to what happens to skydivers or jet pilots," he said. "They put themselves in situations where, if they don't perform at peak efficiency, they'll crash and burn. In the aftermath there is a rush of chemicals."

Patrick P. Gelsinger, the chief technology officer at Intel, says it is clear that the overall time spent in front of screens — whether desktop computers or hand-held devices — is rising. "Time spent watching television is down," he said. "But over all you see a discretionary increase in the amount of time people are connected to technology."

The presence of such devices, as well as their power, will only grow. Networks that provide wireless Internet access are in their early stages. Intel has put the full force of its science and marketing effort behind wireless devices and the superfast miniature microprocessors that power them.

Intel portrays computers as pushing productivity, and Mr. Gelsinger scoffs at the idea that digital devices have a compulsive or physically addictive draw. "We don't make drugs," he said. "We make technology building blocks that move the world forward in all ways."

But he concedes that there can be a point at which the constant accessibility of information is hard to escape.

In one meeting at Intel, Mr. Gelsinger said he found himself sending an instant message to his boss across the room — a potential distraction, though he argued that by doing so, he did not have to engage in "disruptive whispering." At other times, Mr. Gelsinger has had to remind himself not to use e-mail on his laptop during a meeting because it can send the message that he is not paying full attention.


SOMETIMES, discipline must be imposed from the outside. At a recent technology conference organized by The Wall Street Journal and attended by industry heavyweights like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer and Stephen M. Case of AOL Time Warner, people were discouraged from using their wireless Internet access during presentations.

Bucking the recent tradition at trade shows and technology conferences, the organizers decided not to provide wireless Internet access inside the conference.

"We wanted people to absorb what the speakers were saying," said Walt Mossberg, a technology columnist at The Journal.

"We decided that if you have Wi-Fi, it would be destructive," he added. "If you have the Internet, it will win out. People imagine they can multitask, but sometimes people overestimate the extent to which they can do it."

If multitasking creates a problem for people, the cause is not the gadget makers themselves, said Jeff Hallock, the senior director for consumer products at Sprint PCS, the mobile telephone carrier. The company has been selling the manna of multitasking: phones that can also take digital pictures, send e-mail and instant messages and download music. But Mr. Hallock says those functions help people stay organized, not make them frenetic.

"We're enhancing people's lives so they can have more control of the flurry of activity that's seemingly coming in," he said.

"You don't have to check your voice mail," he added. "We're giving you the chance to do so."

The notion that using all these devices creates a harmful addiction is absurd to Bruce P. Mehlman, assistant commerce secretary for technology policy and a former executive at Cisco Systems. Mr. Mehlman said the presence of many gadgets in people's lives created not a cacophony, but harmony and balance.

Mobile phones, wireless Internet devices and laptops have liberated executives, he said, allowing them to leave the office and to spend more time at home. The users of these technologies are constantly wired, he said, but to a very positive goal.

"Ten years ago, you had to be in the office 12 hours," said Mr. Mehlman, who said he now spent 10 hours a day at work, giving him more time with his wife and three children, while also making use of his wireless-enabled laptop, BlackBerry and mobile phone.

"I get to help my kids get dressed, feed them breakfast, give them a bath and read them stories at night," he said. He can also have Lego air fights — a game in which he and his 5-year-old son have imaginary dogfights with Lego airplanes.

Both love the game, and it has an added benefit for Dad: he can play with one hand while using the other to talk on the phone or check e-mail. The multitasking maneuver occasionally requires a trick: although Mr. Mehlman usually lets his son win the Lego air battles, he sometimes allows himself to win, which forces his son to spend a few minutes putting his plane back together.

"While he rebuilds his plane, I check my e-mail on the BlackBerry," Mr. Mehlman explained.

Mr. Lax, too, cannot pass up the chance to use every bit of technology that comes his way. A graduate of Boston University who lives outside Boston, he is managing general partner at GrandBanks Capital, a venture investment firm. He serves on the boards of three companies, working to turn them into successful ventures. "I build companies one customer at a time," he said, adding that his investments are up against other well-financed competitors. "It's a race against time."

Mr. Lax uses technology to keep up. He is, by his own admission, "Always On."

On his office desk is a land-line telephone, a mobile phone, a laptop computer connected to several printers, and a television, often tuned to CNN or CNBC. At his side is the aptly named Sidekick, a mobile device that serves as camera, calendar, address book, instant-messaging gadget and fallback phone. It can browse the Internet and receive e-mail. He has been known to pick it up whenever it chirps at him — and he acknowledges having used it to check e-mail while in the men's restroom.

There is no down time in the car, either. "I talk on the phone, but I have a headset," Mr. Lax said. Does he do anything else, like using his Sidekick to read e-mail? "I won't be quoted as saying what else I do because it could get me arrested," he said, laughing.

Mr. Lax said he loved the constant stimulation. "It's instant gratification," he said, and it staves off boredom. "I use it when I'm in a waiting situation — if I'm standing in line, waiting to be served for lunch, or getting takeout coffee at Starbucks. And, my God, at the airport it's disastrous to have to wait there.

"Being able to send an e-mail in real time is just — " Mr. Lax paused. "Can you hold for a second? My other line is ringing."

When he returned, he said he shared this way of working with many venture capitalists. "We all suffer a kind of A.D.D," he said. "It's a bit of a joke, but it's true. We are easily bored. We have lots of things going on at the same time."

The technology gives him a way to direct his excess energy. "It is a kind of Ritalin," he said, referring to the drug commonly taken by people with attention deficit disorder.


BUT he said technology dependence could have its down side. "I'm in meetings all the time with people who are focused on what they're doing on their computers, not on the presentation," he said.

During the Vortex telecommunications conference, held in May in Dana Point, Calif., he and dozens of others were using wireless Internet access. He said that he was paying attention to the speaker, using his Internet connection to look up information about the cable industry.

"I was supporting the effort of the speaker by figuring the elements he was talking about," Mr. Lax said. He paused. "I was also doing e-mail so I guess I wasn't giving 100 percent," he added. "I was 40 percent supporting the effort, and 60 percent doing other things."

Indeed, he said, the technology can be a bit distracting. "But it's not a problem," he said. "Being able to process lots of data allows me to be more efficient and productive."

"It allows me to accelerate success."

[July 6, 2003] The Lure of Data Is It Addictive By MATT RICHTEL

These speed demons say they will fall behind if they disconnect, but they also acknowledge feeling something much more powerful: they are compulsively drawn to the constant stimulation provided by incoming data. Call it O.C.D. — online compulsive disorder.

NYT

THIS is Charles Lax's brain on speed.

Mr. Lax, a 44-year-old venture capitalist, is sitting in a conference for telecommunications executives at a hotel near Los Angeles, but he is not all here. Out of one ear, he listens to a live presentation about cable television technology; simultaneously, he surfs the Net on a laptop with a wireless connection, while occasionally checking his mobile device — part phone, part pager and part Internet gadget — for e-mail.

Mr. Lax flew from Boston and paid $2,000 to attend the conference, called Vortex. But he cannot unwire himself long enough to give the presenters his complete focus. If he did, he would face a fate worse than lack of productivity: he would become bored.

"It's hard to concentrate on one thing," he said, adding: "I think I have a condition."

The ubiquity of technology in the lives of executives, other businesspeople and consumers has created a subculture of the Always On — and a brewing tension between productivity and freneticism. For all the efficiency gains that it seemingly provides, the constant stream of data can interrupt not just dinner and family time, but also meetings and creative time, and it can prove very tough to turn off.

Some people who are persistently wired say it is not uncommon for them to be sitting in a meeting and using a hand-held device to exchange instant messages surreptitiously — with someone in the same meeting. Others may be sitting at a desk and engaging in conversation on two phones, one at each ear. At social events, or in the grandstand at their children's soccer games, they read news feeds on mobile devices instead of chatting with actual human beings.

These speed demons say they will fall behind if they disconnect, but they also acknowledge feeling something much more powerful: they are compulsively drawn to the constant stimulation provided by incoming data. Call it O.C.D. — online compulsive disorder.

"It's magnetic," said Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard. "It's like a tar baby: the more you touch it, the more you have to."

Dr. Hallowell and John Ratey, an associate professor at Harvard and a psychiatrist with an expertise in attention deficit disorder, are among a growing number of physicians and sociologists who are assessing how technology affects attention span, creativity and focus. Though many people regard multitasking as a social annoyance, these two and others are asking whether it is counterproductive, and even addicting.

The pair have their own term for this condition: pseudo-attention deficit disorder. Its sufferers do not have actual A.D.D., but, influenced by technology and the pace of modern life, have developed shorter attention spans. They become frustrated with long-term projects, thrive on the stress of constant fixes of information, and physically crave the bursts of stimulation from checking e-mail or voice mail or answering the phone.

"It's like a dopamine squirt to be connected," said Dr. Ratey, who compares the sensations created by constantly being wired to those of narcotics — a hit of pleasure, stimulation and escape. "It takes the same pathway as our drugs of abuse and pleasure."

"It's an addiction," he said, adding that some people cannot deal with down time or quiet moments. "Without it, we are in withdrawal."

ACCORDING to research compiled by David E. Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, multitaskers actually hinder their productivity by trying to ash two things at once. Mr. Meyer has found that people who switch back and forth between two tasks, like exchanging e-mail and writing a report, may spend 50 percent more time on those tasks than if they work on them separately, completing one before starting the other.

As a result, Mr. Meyer said, businesspeople who multitask "are making themselves worse businesspeople."

He says little research has been done into why some people are compulsively drawn to multitasking. But he theorizes that the allure has several layers. Multitasking offers a guise of productivity, a "macho" show of ashment, and similarities to a quick amphetamine rush.

"It's related to what happens to skydivers or jet pilots," he said. "They put themselves in situations where, if they don't perform at peak efficiency, they'll crash and burn. In the aftermath there is a rush of chemicals."

Patrick P. Gelsinger, the chief technology officer at Intel, says it is clear that the overall time spent in front of screens — whether desktop computers or hand-held devices — is rising. "Time spent watching television is down," he said. "But over all you see a discretionary increase in the amount of time people are connected to technology."

The presence of such devices, as well as their power, will only grow. Networks that provide wireless Internet access are in their early stages. Intel has put the full force of its science and marketing effort behind wireless devices and the superfast miniature microprocessors that power them.

Intel portrays computers as pushing productivity, and Mr. Gelsinger scoffs at the idea that digital devices have a compulsive or physically addictive draw. "We don't make drugs," he said. "We make technology building blocks that move the world forward in all ways."

But he concedes that there can be a point at which the constant accessibility of information is hard to escape.

In one meeting at Intel, Mr. Gelsinger said he found himself sending an instant message to his boss across the room — a potential distraction, though he argued that by doing so, he did not have to engage in "disruptive whispering." At other times, Mr. Gelsinger has had to remind himself not to use e-mail on his laptop during a meeting because it can send the message that he is not paying full attention.


SOMETIMES, discipline must be imposed from the outside. At a recent technology conference organized by The Wall Street Journal and attended by industry heavyweights like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer and Stephen M. Case of AOL Time Warner, people were discouraged from using their wireless Internet access during presentations.

Bucking the recent tradition at trade shows and technology conferences, the organizers decided not to provide wireless Internet access inside the conference.

"We wanted people to absorb what the speakers were saying," said Walt Mossberg, a technology columnist at The Journal.

"We decided that if you have Wi-Fi, it would be destructive," he added. "If you have the Internet, it will win out. People imagine they can multitask, but sometimes people overestimate the extent to which they can do it."

If multitasking creates a problem for people, the cause is not the gadget makers themselves, said Jeff Hallock, the senior director for consumer products at Sprint PCS, the mobile telephone carrier. The company has been selling the manna of multitasking: phones that can also take digital pictures, send e-mail and instant messages and download music. But Mr. Hallock says those functions help people stay organized, not make them frenetic.

"We're enhancing people's lives so they can have more control of the flurry of activity that's seemingly coming in," he said.

"You don't have to check your voice mail," he added. "We're giving you the chance to do so."

The notion that using all these devices creates a harmful addiction is absurd to Bruce P. Mehlman, assistant commerce secretary for technology policy and a former executive at Cisco Systems. Mr. Mehlman said the presence of many gadgets in people's lives created not a cacophony, but harmony and balance.

Mobile phones, wireless Internet devices and laptops have liberated executives, he said, allowing them to leave the office and to spend more time at home. The users of these technologies are constantly wired, he said, but to a very positive goal.

"Ten years ago, you had to be in the office 12 hours," said Mr. Mehlman, who said he now spent 10 hours a day at work, giving him more time with his wife and three children, while also making use of his wireless-enabled laptop, BlackBerry and mobile phone.

"I get to help my kids get dressed, feed them breakfast, give them a bath and read them stories at night," he said. He can also have Lego air fights — a game in which he and his 5-year-old son have imaginary dogfights with Lego airplanes.

Both love the game, and it has an added benefit for Dad: he can play with one hand while using the other to talk on the phone or check e-mail. The multitasking maneuver occasionally requires a trick: although Mr. Mehlman usually lets his son win the Lego air battles, he sometimes allows himself to win, which forces his son to spend a few minutes putting his plane back together.

"While he rebuilds his plane, I check my e-mail on the BlackBerry," Mr. Mehlman explained.

Mr. Lax, too, cannot pass up the chance to use every bit of technology that comes his way. A graduate of Boston University who lives outside Boston, he is managing general partner at GrandBanks Capital, a venture investment firm. He serves on the boards of three companies, working to turn them into successful ventures. "I build companies one customer at a time," he said, adding that his investments are up against other well-financed competitors. "It's a race against time."

Mr. Lax uses technology to keep up. He is, by his own admission, "Always On."

On his office desk is a land-line telephone, a mobile phone, a laptop computer connected to several printers, and a television, often tuned to CNN or CNBC. At his side is the aptly named Sidekick, a mobile device that serves as camera, calendar, address book, instant-messaging gadget and fallback phone. It can browse the Internet and receive e-mail. He has been known to pick it up whenever it chirps at him — and he acknowledges having used it to check e-mail while in the men's restroom.

There is no down time in the car, either. "I talk on the phone, but I have a headset," Mr. Lax said. Does he do anything else, like using his Sidekick to read e-mail? "I won't be quoted as saying what else I do because it could get me arrested," he said, laughing.

Mr. Lax said he loved the constant stimulation. "It's instant gratification," he said, and it staves off boredom. "I use it when I'm in a waiting situation — if I'm standing in line, waiting to be served for lunch, or getting takeout coffee at Starbucks. And, my God, at the airport it's disastrous to have to wait there.

"Being able to send an e-mail in real time is just — " Mr. Lax paused. "Can you hold for a second? My other line is ringing."

When he returned, he said he shared this way of working with many venture capitalists. "We all suffer a kind of A.D.D," he said. "It's a bit of a joke, but it's true. We are easily bored. We have lots of things going on at the same time."

The technology gives him a way to direct his excess energy. "It is a kind of Ritalin," he said, referring to the drug commonly taken by people with attention deficit disorder.


BUT he said technology dependence could have its down side. "I'm in meetings all the time with people who are focused on what they're doing on their computers, not on the presentation," he said.

During the Vortex telecommunications conference, held in May in Dana Point, Calif., he and dozens of others were using wireless Internet access. He said that he was paying attention to the speaker, using his Internet connection to look up information about the cable industry.

"I was supporting the effort of the speaker by figuring the elements he was talking about," Mr. Lax said. He paused. "I was also doing e-mail so I guess I wasn't giving 100 percent," he added. "I was 40 percent supporting the effort, and 60 percent doing other things."

Indeed, he said, the technology can be a bit distracting. "But it's not a problem," he said. "Being able to process lots of data allows me to be more efficient and productive."

"It allows me to accelerate success."

[Feb 2, 2002] Byte: Information Overload Fighting data asphyxiation is difficult but possible

Data is like food. A good meal is served in reasonably-sized portions from several food groups. It leaves you satisfied but not stuffed. Likewise with information, we're best served when we can partake of reasonable, useful portions, exercising discretion in what data we digest and how often we seek it out.

Unfortunately, we often do the opposite, ingesting information constantly to the point of choking on it. The risk of information asphyxiation touches all of us -- managers, Web surfers, even lazy couch tubers.

The most obvious locus of information inundation is the office: e-mail, voice mail, phone calls, meetings, business journals, faxes, memos, manuals, Web research. The list goes on. Far from bringing about the anticipated "paperless office" and reduced work load, technological innovations have increased both areas.

David Shenk, in his book Data Smog, reports that between 1980 and 1990, paper consumption in the U.S. tripled to 1,800 pounds per person. Sixty percent of the average office worker's time is spent processing paper documents. Additionally, "the typical business manager is said to read one million words per week." That's the equivalent of one and a half full-length novels per day.

Diminishing Efficiency

Information technology, in fact, often diminishes workplace efficiency. Scientific American ("Taking Computers to Task," July 1997) pointed out that despite the $1 trillion spent annually across the globe, "productivity growth measured in the seven richest nations has instead fallen precipitously in the last 30 years ... Most of the economic growth can be explained by increased employment, trade and production capacity. Computers' contributions, in contrast, nearly vanish in the noise."

Blame can be pinned on everything from sound cards to solitaire, that numbing front-desk babysitter.

Also at fault, however, is the medium and people's lack of training in how to effectively use it. When employees use e-mail to communicate with someone 50 feet away, there's a problem. Saving customer quotes in a general "user" directory is just asking for the document to become lost among hundreds of other files. Inefficient inventory software yields frustration where a simple list on paper would do the trick.

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