App Addiction…I Have It.

I jokingly refer to myself as an “app addict!” Lately I am so obsessed with my mobile phone applications that I’ve filled numerous screens full of apps, play with them anytime I have 5 minutes to spare and sleep next to my phone just so it can be the first thing I grab in the morning!

While there haven’t been any studies yet on the impact of mobile phone application use and health, USAToday recently ran an article practically dubbing “app addiction” a real thing. “What is app addiction doing to people’s health?, the article asked.

“Addiction” is a word that’s often tossed around in fun somewhat haphazardly, with people claiming they’re “addicted” to everything from chocolate to reality TV to shoes. But real addiction is no joking matter. An addict is someone with a psychological or physical dependence to something and are unable to put an end to their behavior despite its negative consequences.

Given this psychological component of addiction, it’s not entirely off-base to question whether becoming addicted to mobile apps is the next big thing in technology-related addictions.

Marina Picciotto, professor of psychiatry, neurobiology and pharmacology at Yale University said in an interview, “there are a few parallels we can make from other addictions, like compulsive shopping. The consequences can be bad — credit debt, time lost.” And Hilarie Cash, a psychotherapist and co-founder of reStart, a Fall City, Washington-based Internet-addiction recovery center, warned that users should keep tabs on whether apps are taking over their real lives. Ha my sister spends more time on Farmville than on her own real life.

So how do you know if it’s taking over your life? Cash says that if you spend more than 2 hours per day engaged with your digital equipment for non-work related or homework-related reasons, “then you’ve got cause for alarm.”

Wow, I am certainly an addict, I am writing this in between rounds of Zombie Highway, and if those are the guidelines for addiction then just about every American has “television addiction” given the 2 hours they sit in front of their TV.


Is the web changing the way we think?

Last week the flurry of information pelted at us by the internet reached a new intensity.

Google Instant was launched as a new development of the popular search engine that predicts your query even as you type it; flicking through pages of results before you have finished a single word.

It’s undoubtedly an amazing piece of technology, which takes its place among a seemingly endless succession of innovations turbo-charging the medium.

But somewhere beyond the hubbub of excitement surrounding the ever increasing number of blogs, social networks, newsfeeds and websites we flit between is a questioning voice asking: what effect is this tornado of information having on our brains?

“I became aware of changes in my own thinking a couple of years ago,” Nicholas Carr, author of new book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains”.

“Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time using the net and other digital technologies over the past ten or fifteen years, and I’ve enjoyed the many benefits those technologies provide.

“But I came to realize, some time in 2007, that I was losing my ability to pay deep attention to one thing over a long period of time. When I’d sit down to read a book, for instance, I was only able to sustain my concentration for a page or two. My mind would begin to crave stimulation and distraction — it wanted to click on links, jump from page to page, check email, do some Googling.

“The habits of mind the net encouraged had become my dominant habits of mind. That’s when I began to do the research that led to the writing of ‘The Shallows’.”

While writing the book he came across a body of academic research that backed up his hunch, and the argument at the heart of “The Shallows” is that that the changes Carr felt in his own mind are happening much more broadly throughout society.

Earlier this week Baroness Greenfield, the Oxford University researcher and former head of the UK’s Royal Institution, called on the British government and private companies to investigate the effects on our brains of computer games, the internet and social networking.

“We should acknowledge that it is bringing an unprecedented change in our lives and we have to work out whether it is for good or bad,” she told reporters.

“For me, this is almost as important as climate change. Whilst of course it doesn’t threaten the existence of the planet like climate change, I think the quality of our existence is threatened and the kind of people we might be in the future.”

Greenfield calls the effect of too much time in front of a computer as “mind change”. Carr goes further in his analysis and talks about how the way we think is shaped by the tools we use to think with.

“This was true of the map, the alphabet, the clock, and the printing press, and it’s true as well of the internet. The net encourages the mental skills associated with the rapid gathering of small bits of information from many sources, but it discourages the kind of deeply attentive thinking that leads to the building of knowledge, conceptual thinking, reflection, and contemplativeness.

“So, as with earlier intellectual technologies, the net strengthens certain cognitive functions but weakens others. And because the neural pathways in our brain adapt readily to experience, the changes occur in the actual cellular wiring of our brains.”
Some of these arguments may have a familiar ring — those old enough may recall similar fears about television; the belief that media will rot our brains is not new, but Carr argues this time it is different.

“As a multimedia system, the ‘net is different from TV and radio, and certainly from the printed page, and needs to be evaluated on its own terms,” he says.

“The reason that alterations in our habits of mind matter is because they determine the scope and richness of our intellectual lives and also affect the depth of our culture.”

So should we be worried?

“It depends on what you value about the human mind,” says Carr.

“Some people love the constant stimulation the net provides, and don’t much care about the loss of more solitary, contemplative ways of thinking. For them, it’s not a problem at all.

“Other people — and I’m one of them — believe that while it’s important to be able to skim and scan and multitask, our deepest and most valuable thinking requires a calm and attentive mind. If you exist in a perpetual state of distractedness, you’ll never tap into the deepest sources of human insight and creativity.”

With the multiplication of smartphones, netbooks, and social networking services ratcheting up the intensity of the interruptions that bombard us, Carr believes that these changes will continue to accelerate. As the internet is woven ever more deeply into our work lives, social lives, and education we need to start thinking about where all this is leading, now.

“I fear that we have been too quick to assume that computers and the ‘net are good for students,” he says.

“Certainly kids need to learn how to use the net effectively, but I think they also need to be encouraged to read printed books, to learn to pay attention, and to engage in solitary and contemplative thought. If kids are distracted all day long, in and out of school, they may never learn to think deeply. But there may be a way to have our cake and eat it when it comes to connectivity.

Ignoring the irony of using software to solve a problem created by software, there are several packages now available that lock you out of the internet and all its distractions for a specified period of time — letting you focus on work, rather than disappearing down the rabbit hole of Google and Wikipedia.

Muslims banned from attending brewery-backed Malaysia concert

The Malaysian government has barred Muslims from attending a concert by US hip-hop stars the Black Eyed Peas next month because the event is organised by the Irish brewer Guinness, an official said today.
The ban comes amid a clampdown on alcohol consumption among Malaysia’s Muslim majority.

A woman who drank beer in public was sentenced to caning by a court last month, but the authorities – who recently curbed the sale of alcohol in a central state – have since agreed to review the punishment.

Muslims in Malaysia are governed by sharia law – which forbids the consumption of alcohol – in family and personal matters.

The Black Eyed Peas will perform at a theme park near Kuala Lumpur on 25 September as part of a worldwide series of events to mark the 250th anniversary of the Guinness brewery in Dublin.

Malaysia’s largest city is one of five places hosting Guinness concerts, and its website said the party was “only open to non-Muslims aged 18 years and above”.

Previous major pop concerts in Malaysia, including one by the Black Eyed Peas in 2007, have always been open to Muslims.

“Muslims cannot attend. Non-Muslims can go and have fun,” an official at the ministry of information, communication and culture told the Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear how the ban on Muslims would be enforced.

The official said the concert would not have been permitted under normal circumstances because government regulations forbid alcohol companies from organising events.

However, they made an exception in the hope that it would boost tourism. The official said Guinness could not use its logo in concert publicity material.

Lady Gaga at VMA…Offensive or Awesome?

Lady Gaga looked almost conservative when she accepted the “Video of the Year” award for “Bad Romance” at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night. But when she remarked “I never thought I’d be asking Cher to hold my meat purse,” we realized what her get-up (dress, hat, shoes, and purse) was actually made of.
Earlier this month, Gaga wore a meat bikini for the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan. @GagaDaily reports the dress was made by Franc Fernandez.

Has Lady Gaga outdone herself?