How the iPhone made us junkies
If you accept the widely documented phenomenon of smartphone, video game and internet addiction, it’s hard to view the tens of thousands of people who lined up to be first to get their hands on the new iPhones as anything other than hopeless junkies.
The image of the scratching, nervous intravenous drug user springs to mind every time I read yet another story of scratching, nervous tech nerds camping out overnight on street corners to buy said phone – or tales of Apple godfather Steve Jobs severely curtailing his children’s use of technology in his home.
Something tells me that Jobs wouldn’t have let his kids camp out to buy anything with a screen and probably felt an uneasy bewilderment about the Apple fanboys and girls who do, in much the same way rock stars or athletes feel about their more obsessive followers.
Most people at the top of their game appreciate devotees but I’m sure pop singers, football players and technology executives alike get weirded out seeing their image tattooed on a fanatic’s decolletage or their logo shaved into a teenager’s head.
You gotta ignore a whole lot of other stuff in your life to get that excited about anything.
However, the more sobering analogy is technology developers look at their super users like heroin dealers do smack addicts, with a mixture of gratitude, pity and contempt that they’ve let themselves be so enslaved by their product.
Techies go out of their way to explain the new iPhone ain’t just a phone, which is why it is so “exciting”.
“Anyone who believes that anything ‘should’ seem ‘automatic and effortless’ will have a hard time living – and dying,” writes psychotherapist Talitha Stevenson in The New Statesman, “but they will consistently purchase technology. In other words, if this is a problem, then that is a solution.
“All addictions arise from the poignant desire to interpret existential anxieties as a physical lack – of heroin, vodka, or new shoes. But heroin is physically addictive, while shoes, surely, are not. The distinction between substance addiction and ‘process’, or behavioural, addiction might be less tidy than the categories imply.
“In a process addiction – to sex, for example – a person may well be addicted to the biochemicals she shoots up in the privacy of her own body. The biochemical element in exercise addiction is accepted. Why not in serially unrequited love affairs?”