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The Shape of Technology - and How it Shapes Us

Addiction is a very complicated thing that we struggle with all over the world. There are as many reasons for addiction as there are people. For some, it’s being unable to pull away from something they deeply love. For others, it’s used as a crutch to escape from the real world.

There are certain addictions that are painfully obvious to an addict’s loved ones; other addictions can be harder to spot - especially if it’s a dependence on something that’s widespread and used by just about everyone. Over the past few decades, technology addiction has been on the rise, thanks to digital devices becoming tangled up in our homes, workplaces and even our pockets. It’s easy to overlook because we’ve become so accustomed to seeing these devices out in the world. It can be hard for even doctors and trained professionals to diagnose, which is why studies in technology addiction are still very much ongoing.

For Charles, it was hard to see he had a problem with video game addiction since playing games was such a routine thing for him to do every day. Eventually, however, the observation made itself known.

“I kind of started realizing that I was 27 years old and I was really no closer to completing any of my life goals than I was five, ten years prior,” explained Charles. “And it was something I wasn’t equipped to handle, emotionally. And the only thing I knew to handle it was to start gaming again.”

He was able to get help by going to Restart Life, a rehabilitation center focused on technology-based addictions. After going through the program, he’s made a lot of changes in his daily life, including setting appropriate boundaries.

”My technology use is a lot more monitored now than it ever has [been] before. I don’t play any form of video game. I don’t even allow myself sudoku on my phone, or a crossword or anything.”

While going through the program, Charles not only learned about setting limitations but also about moving a few steps away from technology and instead, toward more basic things like seeing friends and learning how to cook for yourself.

Those friends also help him stay on track with his personal goals of using less technology.

“I run monitoring software that will let my accountability partners know how much I’m using my phone and what apps I use,” said Charles. This way, he doesn’t feel so alone on his journey. Having others included is a way for him to remain focused and yet, still involve others in his life.

But that doesn’t mean Charles has sworn off ALL forms of technology. He still recognizes its benefits and uses it in some capacity. Though nowadays, he’s more focused on HOW he uses it.

“...It’s really just a lot more awareness of how much I’m using technology, what I’m doing with it and being open to feedback...anytime I’m doing something I really probably shouldn’t be doing on there.”

It’s this openness that has allowed Charles to reconnect with the people and the world around him. He’s been enjoying aspects of his life that he had been ignoring or overlooking for some time.

Noted professor and philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” We are seeing that the deeper we go into the world of our own creations, the harder it is to come back to reality. And like Marshall McLuhan said, we are already seeing the many different ways that technology is shaping US instead of the other way around!

It’s ironic how technology has long been propositioned as the new thing that will bring us closer together but often ends up isolating us from others. The great news is, we can all find a good balance that brings positive benefits to our lives while letting us stay connected to the real world.

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