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Texting Family
Image Source: PepperDigital Blog

There is a growing digital divide in America.  Not between those with access to technology and those without.  No, it seems nearly all of us have ample access to technology.  It turns out the growing divide is between the digital world and the “real” world.

Digital Addiction

Digital addiction – including internet addiction and internet gaming disorder – is affecting more and more people.  Some have even found that excessive computer time leads to insufficient outdoor time, sometimes called “nature deficit disorder”.

Studies suggest that up to 10% of Americans – potentially more than 30 million people – struggle to keep computer use in check.  The problem has grown so much that the Internet Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center will open to inpatient treatment at Pennsylvania’s Bradford Regional Medical Center.  The center will be the first in the nation to offer medically based digital-detox for addicts.

Digital addiction frequently affects scholastic performance and marriage.  One university found that nearly half of its freshmen dropouts reported frequently staying up all night on the Internet while enrolled.  One marriage and family therapist reported computer issues in 80% of couples she counsels.

“It’s a huge problem,” she said.  “When men are spending too much time on the computer, it’s usually gaming.  For women, it’s Facebook….  Sometimes, social media or computer games become a third party in the relationship, almost another person that partners feel they’re competing with.”

– Rick Montgomery at The Kansas City Star

Spelling and Grammar Left Behind

The digital divide is also affecting our language.  Rather than engaging in personal conversation, many young people today primarily express themselves through highly limited 140 character digital interactions.  It’s difficult for many of them to transition to “formal” language skills when required – for example, in a school or work environment.  70% of teachers surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project agreed that technology led students to take shortcuts and put less effort into their writing.  Careless slang and poor spelling frequently made their way into formal writing.

Sharing Too Much

You know the person.  It’s that friend (or friends) on Facebook (or Twitter or something else) that just can’t stop sharing.  You’re inundated with mundane details about their day.  Not surprisingly, such unmitigated sharing tends to alienate the “sharers” from “normal” friends.  Several universities in the U.K. have found that frequent Facebook photo sharers “risk damaging real-life relationships” (though as Chris Matyszczyk writes, that assumes they have “real” friends anyway).

Frequent sharers should also be mindful of privacy issues.  As Scott Greenfield has written, even if you are meticulously careful about what you share, the content is out of your control once it is posted.  Even if you’re careful, your “friends” might not be.  It also might not be a great idea to post that photo of you throwing up on the dog – once posted, that photo is in the Internet-ether forever and ever.

Be Mindful

You’re reading this online, so you have some knowledge about technology and the digital world.  Just be sure you stay grounded in real life.  Don’t sacrifice family time or time with actual friends for time with virtual ones.

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© Copyright 2013 Brett A. Emison

Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter

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