For the first time ever, psychologists have treated an individual for internet addiction disorder caused by overuse of Google Glass. The patient had been exhibiting withdrawal symptoms when not using the device, and even dreamt he was wearing it.
It's debatable as to whether "internet addiction disorder" (IAD) is indeed a thing. It's not listed in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but it's listed in the appendix as a condition worthy of further investigation. Some psychologists do recognize it, however, characterizing it as the problematic use of online videogames, computer use, and mobile handheld devices. Individuals with IAD exhibit severe emotional, social, and mental dysfunction in a number of areas of daily activities owing to their overuse of technology and the internet.
The patient, a 31-year old US navy serviceman, had been using the device for no less than 18 hours a day, removing it only to sleep and wash. He complained of feeling irritable and argumentative without it, and began to suffer from involuntary movements, cravings, and memory problems. And in the two months since he bought Glass, he started to experience dreams as if viewed through the device's small grey window.
Perhaps revealingly, the man has a history of depression, social anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder; he may have a psychological proclivity towards addictions and addiction-like behaviors.
And in fact, he was being treated at the Navy's Substance Abuse and Recovery Program (SARP) for alcoholism when psychologists began noticing how frustrated and irritable he would become when not allowed to use Glass (in addition to taking away drugs and alcohol, all electronic devices are confiscated as part of the treatment).
He told the psychologists that he was going through withdrawal from his Google Glass and that it was greater than the alcohol withdrawal he was experiencing. The man used the device to improve his performance at work, where it allowed him to become more efficient at his job of making inventories of convoy vehicles for the Navy.
...exhibited a notable, nearly involuntary movement of the right hand up to his temple area and tapping it with his forefinger [as if in an effort to turn on the device].
In turn, the patient was put on a 35-day treatment course, resulting in a noticeable reduction in irritability, along with a reduction in the hand movements towards his temple. His short-term memory and clarity of thought process also improved, but he did continue to experience the odd dream of him looking through the device.
"There's nothing inherently bad about Google Glass," noted psychologist Andrew Doan in a Guardian article. "It's just that there is very little time between [the rush of using the device]. So for an individual who's looking to escape, for an individual who has underlying mental dysregulation, for people with a predisposition for addiction, technology provides a very convenient way to access these rushes. And the danger with wearable technology is that you're allowed to be almost constantly in the closet, while appearing like you're present in the moment."
Personally, I think a case can be made that this represents a true addiction. What concerns me in particular is the ensuing irritability, impairments to short-term memory, and lack of mental clarity.
But it needs to be said that Glass — like other augmentative or wearable computing devices — does in fact alter our experience in the world and how we engage with our environment and others. What's more, it becomes a kind of extension to the human mind and body. For some would-be cyborgs, including University of Toronto professor Steven Mann, it's like removing a limb.
We therefore need to exercise caution when potentially over-thinking the addictive qualities of things we use and need on a daily basis in order to function in the modern world.
Read the entire scientific study here.
Image: Hattanas Kumchai/Shutterstock.