iDisorder – Is mobile technology driving us crazy?

The great American architect and writer Frank Lloyd Wright once said: “If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push button finger.” Anyone reading this who is the parent of a teenage child will argue that his prediction has already come true.

The great American architect and writer Frank Lloyd Wright once said: “If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push button finger.” Anyone reading this who is the parent of a teenage child will argue that his prediction has already come true.

We live in an age when a father can become preoccupied by checking their Blackberry at the dinner table at the expense of listening to his wife and children, where an innocent Facebook comment can lead to ‘flaming’ and even physical danger and where a patient empowered by the information available online can convince themselves that innocent symptoms are in fact lethal. Each of these examples could be said to indicate a psychological issue of one type or another (the father may be showing an addictive trait, the ‘flamer’ some form of aggressive disorder and the empowered patient revealing anxiety).

I have been reading a book by Larry Rosen who has grouped these scenarios into a condition called ‘iDisorder’. He presents a rational argument that smartphones and the internet have affected the whole psyche of our society. Whether or not the technologies exacerbate, unmask or create psychological disorders such as OCD is unproven, although Rosen is proposing a causative link by stepping though various psychological conditions and demonstrating how commonly-observed technology behaviours are linked to those conditions.

I recognised a number of traits in the book which I exhibit (and no doubt my family will recognise more). I particularly recognised the ‘Phantom Vibration Syndrome’ where you feel your pocket vibrating and yet the device has not had a call or any other activity (I even recall this from days on the ward 20 years ago with a pager). It turns out that 70% of medical staff have observed this phenomenon but only 2% are bothered enough to take action.

iDisorder is an interesting theory with some supportive evidence (particularly around Internet Addiction) but what Rosen does very well in his book, is to describe how the psychological behaviour can be identified (using simple screening tools he has devised and explained) and then modified using standard, patient-driven behavioural changes.

I would recommend anyone interested in the medical and psychological effects of technology read this book – it is fascinating, well written and (if you are like me) offers advice on how to lessen the effect of technology on your psyche.
Do you get Phantom Vibration Syndrome or notice other iDisorder symptoms in yourself or others? What’s your view about the psychological impact of technology?