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When President Obama last ran for office, the i Phone had yet to be launched.
Now smartphones outnumber the old models in America, and more than a third of users get online before getting out of bed.
It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.“This is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change,” says Susan Greenfield, a pharmacology professor at Oxford University who is working on a book about how digital culture is rewiring us—and not for the better.
It had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol, his wife, Danica, stressed in a blog post, and everything to do with the machine that kept Russell connected even as he was breaking apart. Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed.
Now the Korean government is funding treatment centers, and coordinating a late-night Web shutdown for young people.
China, meanwhile, has launched a mothers’ crusade for safe Web habits, turning to that approach after it emerged that some doctors were using electro-shock and severe beatings to treat Internet-addicted teens.“There’s just something about the medium that’s addictive,” says Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he directs the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic and Impulse Control Disorders Clinic.
The idea was to use social media to make Kony famous as the first step to stopping his crimes.
And it seemed to work: the film hurtled through cyberspace, clocking more than 70 million views in less than a week. The same digital tools that supported his mission seemed to tear at his psyche, exposing him to nonstop kudos and criticisms, and ending his arm’s-length relationship with new media.
The Web wasn’t made “to keep track of how much people like us,” he thought, and when his own tech habits made him feel like “a genius, an addict, or a megalomaniac,” he unplugged for days, believing, as the humorist Andy Borowitz put it in a tweet that Russell tagged as a favorite, “it’s important to turn off our computers and do things in the real world.”But this past March Russell struggled to turn off anything.