Wearable Tech World Feature Article
October 23, 2014

Did Google Glass Spark an Internet Addiction in One User?

Perhaps the one truly great thing about Google Glass is how it presents information, at a moment's notice, right in front of our very eyes. It's like wearing a laptop or a smartphone, in arm's reach at any time. But having that kind of thing on hand all the time could prove too tempting to ever turn off, and for one user, it may have been that Google Glass sparked an outright addiction to the seemingly endless flow of data known as the Internet.

The man in question had reportedly been wearing Google Glass nearly 18 hours out of every 24, removing the device only to sleep and bathe. He had owned the device for just about two months, but already reached the point where he felt irritable when he wasn't wearing it. Perhaps stranger still, he described how his dreams were now presented as if he were viewing same through the small gray window at the front of the device. Thus, the man—a U.S. Navy serviceman—checked into the Navy's Substance Abuse and Recovery Program (SARP) for treatment, in which not only are alcohol, drugs and cigarettes denied patients for 35 days, but so too are all electronic devices taken away, including the serviceman's Google Glass system.

Of particular note was, when the system was taken away, the man was spotted tapping his right temple with his index finger, which is the motion commonly used to turn on Google Glass' heads-up display. The man further noted that not only did he believe he was going into withdrawal from the lack of Google Glass, but so too was the withdrawal in question actually stronger than a comparable withdrawal being felt for alcohol. Though originally, the man turned to Google Glass as a means to improve his performance at work, it soon became much more than that, as he found himself suffering from cravings, memory problems, and more.

Some, like SARP's Dr. Andrew Doan, believe the nature of wearable devices may well contribute to addictive patterns that may be in place, but aren't specifically being activated from more stationary technologies. Doan points to rapid cycles of “rushes”, periods of neurological reward that encourage addiction, as well as the ability to be, “almost constantly in the closet while appearing like you're present in the moment” as wearable technology's biggest contributing factors to addiction. Naturally, there's some debate in the psychological community over whether or not technology can be addictive—or if technology addiction is simply an expression of other mental disorders.

Indeed, those familiar with behavioral psychology likely have a conclusion or two drawn. Wearable technology is constantly on hand, and there's no negative stigma associated with having it. It's even regarded by some as a breed of status symbol, so the idea that anyone would take exception to it is unlikely. It's not like wandering around with drug paraphernalia in one's clutches, but it has a similar effect. The reward of an addiction is provided, and all from devices that are perfectly legal.

While the idea of technology addiction may be up for debate, the impact of such seems to be showing up more and more in society. Only time will tell if this is the start of something particularly unpleasant or just a bump in the road, but it's worth taking off wearable tech from time to time, and taking things just a bit easier.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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