Computer Addiction: Our Emotional Bond With Our Family Computers
Man's Best Friend, PC or Fido?
"Ruh-roh!" Canine for "Uh-oh!"
Psychologists have noted the powerful connection the family pet has on family systems. How families interact with their pets can be extreme, sometimes altering the family’s rhythms, hierarchy, and web of relationships. These pets can be the bond that pulls families together and also be a source of tension within the family. However, the family dog is being rolled over by the family computer.
In one study it suggests that 71% of dog owners between the ages of 18-24 stated they rely more on their computers than their dog.
There are many similarities between the computer and the family dog. However, I wonder if we are now living in the era of George Jetsons and his dog Astro. What was once a family sitcom projecting into the future is the time period now. Today, our culture and lifestyle has met Geroge Jetsons and Jane his wife in Orbit City.
However, Astro reminds us that beyond power chords and Internet what really moves us is when some one simple says, "I ruv roo, Reorge!"
Similarities Between Dogs and Computers
Lays in Bed With You
Lays in Bed With You
A Tablet can be taken on a walk
Go For a Walk
Find the News on the Internet
Brings the Newspaper
Sits on your lap and warms you up
Sits on your lap and warms you up
A Love Affair
Beyond the dog, families also adopt the computer as a presence that clearly bonds modern families and alternatively, cause quarrels that could lead to divorce.
You can learn a lot about families by watching how they interact with their computer.
Our Secret PC Relationship
When I was first married, I often found my husband spending the evenings behind the large computer desk. He would sit there and interact with our personal computer. I started to get jealous of his attention deterred from me and onto her. Yes, her, I named her Betty. I called her Betty as a way to make my husband realize that his data processing machine was taking his attention from his newlywed.
I was intimidated by Betty’s ability to process information quickly. But she was large for a PC, being in the early 2000’s she took up a lot of space. Although my husband did like her voluminous monitor. Sometimes it hurt when he would spend the evenings with Betty and play Diablo into the wee hours of the night and not focus on me.
Through the years, Betty and I became friends. I too, enjoyed finding intimate time with her. She could make the day disappear and had that special ability to quicken my heartbeat when I would bid on eBay. I would sometimes wake up at two am, slip out form under the covers and mingle with Betty for that one on one time. I was driven to make sure I was the highest bidder on an ebay item I thought I had to have. Betty would ensure my success at times, and console my losing bids as she would find other items for me that would meet the criteria of my searches.
Several years later, my husband purchased a PC that could sit right on my lap. He was amazing, and fast. I liked it fast. Unlike Betty, he and I could be together in different rooms and different positions. I could interact with him laying down, sitting, and even standing up. I liked him a lot. I was no longer jealous of my husband’s time with Betty, who was still around, but because of her age, we lost interest in her and she moved down to a room in the basement.
My husband still spent money on her, buying her memory when she couldn’t hold anymore, a new fan when she reached menopause and overheated. Unlike other families, we maintain a long term relationship with our computer long after their prime.
My first time, was in college. He was a brother. Not to worry, I loved him like my brother. He did not offer much as he was unable to compute beyond word processing. I could only view several lines at a time. And like most brother’s he was loud and annoying while he was printing. He could wake up my roommate and neighbors if I allowed him to print during the night.
Times are changing and these personal computers are integrating more and more into the family system. They are like the sage member that can play many roles. Some members are jealous of the PC in the family, they are the one's that 'can do no wrong.' The perfect child. And they can be the one that takes all the attention away.
As One of Their Own Family Member
How we personally bond to our computers can determine if we have a healthy relationship or unhealthy relationship with our data processing machines. The computer can bring families together, especially family's that do not live in close proximity to one another. Using Skype as a way to see and talk to each other in real time, or using social networks to post pictures of an event or outing are all wonderful ways to maintain a connection with family and friends.
Most people turn to the computer when they want to find information, play a game, interact with others, or to stay current with the news and weather. The computer can be a great outlet to escape from stress, loneliness, and boredom.
Just like a substance, alcohol or love addiction, the computer can become an addiction. It becomes a problem when it takes your attention away causing you to neglect your work, relationships, responsibilities, and health. As with all addictions, computer addiction is defined when you keep interacting with the computer despite negative consequences, and you know you need to stop, but you can not.
If you suspect this is happening it is important to begin to limit your time and strengthen real life connections.
Here are a few of the many roles the computer can take place of another human being.
The Many Family Roles the Personal Computer Plays
Instead of calling your own mother for a dinner idea, it is easier to search for recipe ideas on line.
Forgot how to check your car fluids or air pressure? You can search the internet for information and get step by step instructions instead of calling your dad.
Long are the days when families would ask the local hardware store expert on home improvement.
Are the kids bothering you? You can put them in front of the computer and have them be entertained by kid friendly web sites.
More and more singles are finding their dates through websites like eharmony, instead of going to their local tavern.
Have a bump? A swollen gland? How often do you search your symptoms online before calling the doctor?
Instead of hiring someone to keep all your receipts and remind you to pay your bills you can find great websites that can do your taxes and organize your finances.
Need to send a gift? It is so much easier to shop and mail items online then to go to a store, purchase a product, wrap it, find a card, go to the post office and mail it.
Want your children to learn the alphabet? Gone are the days of flashcards. There are many websites that focus on early education.
Delusion of Grandeur
The challenge of the computer is that it fundamentally changes how we communicate to others and relate. Interpersonal interchanges have been replaced with instant messaging and leaving a tweet only 140 characters long. Intimacy and empathy that once was understood and expressed through facial expressions and body language is now being replaced with an emoticon. :)
Sadly, without seeing the social cues of hurting another it can be easier to become aggressive behind a computer screen. :(
People feel freer to express just about anything including, gossip, bullying, deception and lying to another when they do not have to be present and face to face with another. This decreases the ability for conflict resolution, learned empathy, closure and resolve. We can leave a rude message on someone's Facebook page or article and close the computer. Whereas saying something rude to someone's face makes you have to deal with the response immediately.
Technology is going to continue to weave itself into the family fabric. It is up to each individual family to discern how much or what roles their computer is going to play in their family system. Both positively and negatively the computer influences how we all interact with each other and gather our information.
When the computer's influence becomes too destructive or does not allow for others to integrate with real breathing human beings (ruff!) and dogs, then perhaps we can all take a cue from George Jetsons when he says, "Jane, stop this crazy thing!"
Sometimes it is worth shutting down the computer, grabbing the leash and walking the dog the old fashion way. Or waving to your neighbor with your hand instead of giving them a 'poke' on line. It would surely brighten their day, your dogs day, and perhaps you will find something that interests you enough on your walk to Google it when you get home. ;)
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Carly Sullens 2012. All Rights Reserved.