People often joke about the “addictions” that they have and make light of the time they spend doing certain things. I know that I have often done the same thing with the time I was spending on my computer, rationalizing that I was learning new things and exploring new ideas. So, when I ran across this quiz on the blog of Blue Skunk, I figured I’d see how I faired. In truth, I was surprised at the high score (80% addicted)  given that I haven’t been blogging regularly in the past few weeks. Now that I’m getting back to routine and not trying to squeeze the most work out of every minute (one tends to do this when trying to get renovations completed during holidays), I’m hoping that my blogging will again become regular. The thing is, I don’t want it to become an addiction!

Addictions – They’re everywhere!

I subscribe to a popular men’s health magazine and a few issues ago one of the articles was discussing this whole area of addictions. As I read the article, I began to realize that besides many obviously unhealthy addictions that we find around us, many people have addictions that aren’t as obvious but are still unhealthy. Any time we take something beyond moderation, we run the risk of it becoming an addiction or we pursue activities that put ourselves at risk in order to obtain a “high”, we could be suffering from an addiction.

For years I was a smoker. Although I told myself and others I could quit anytime, that was a lie. I was addicted. In fact, it took many tries to break the addiction and even today, I still get the craving every so often. I’ve had other addictions, like work. I’m not sure that there is a difference between someone who is a workaholic and a work addict. I would put in more time at work than was really necessary and it caused other parts of my life to suffer.

In this light, I’m not sure I was a full blown blog addict as much as I was a techno addict. I would often sit at my computer into the wee hours of the morning looking at new tools, trying them out to see how they worked and generally just trying to stay abreast of all that was going on. At one time I must have had 10 to 12 “To Do Lists” as I tried out all the different types. I had 8 blogs as I was trying out all the different types of hosting available. I have used 4 different types of online desktops and have tried a variety of different online documents and notebooks. I was so caught up in exploring the technology and trying all the different types out that I became unproductive and unorganized instead of the opposite. I would sit for hours just moving things from one notebook to another just to see how they looked and functioned. I would check things hourly seeing how many visitors I’d had or if anyone had commented. As I look back, I was an addict. I enjoyed the high of using new tools and trying new things.

Withdrawal – it isn’t easy

I often wonder if anyone who figures someone can just “quit” a habit has ever done so. I don’t know how many times I tried to quit smoking and, really, it was not me trying to quit that got me to quit. I had a horrible cold and didn’t want to go outside so I just stopped. The cold, one of the worst I’ve ever experienced, lasted almost 3 weeks. I figured that I had suffered the withdrawal symptoms and it was probably the best time to quit. Surprisingly, once I made that decision, the cravings started and it wasn’t easy by any means. But I stuck it out and was successful.

The same thing happened with a few other “addictions” that I had. It wasn’t necessarily me trying to quit but rather something that prompted me to stop the addictive behaviour. This was definitely true of my techno habit. I didn’t consciously decide to cut back or anything but the summer work I was doing prevented me from accessing my computer as I had been doing and, I realized after a few weeks, that I had been addicted. I could actually go days without checking email and twitter and I didn’t need to update my Facebook every hour. My blogging was reduced and I didn’t feel “guilty” at all.

Where to go?

I’m back at the blogging and using my computer again daily. I’ve realized that I need to be very careful about getting caught up in the technology and again letting myself become addicted. I’ve realized that, although I need to use the technology, I don’t have to spend nearly the amount of time at it as I was doing. I have to find that balance which will allow me to use the technology to be productive, teach better and be a better leader without it be such a dominating thing. I think that I will be able to do this because I am becoming better at realizing when I’m not using something to help me save time or improve myself. This doesn’t mean that I won’t allow myself some time to play around but it does mean that I’ll be very conscience of how I use my time. I have also become much more comfortable with not being completely on the “technology” edge. As a principal, I spend enough time on a ledge that I can afford to forgo a few! It’s not that I don’t want to know what is going on but I don’t need to see how it works or begin tinkering with all the new tools. As I need them, I’ll try them.

Are we creating a society of techno addicts? Are we aware of the consequences of an addiction and how it can affect our lives? The whole debate on banning the use of cellphones in vehicles might be more about addiction that about connectedness. Are we prepared to seriously look at the use of technology in a way that might suggest that it has become an addiction for some and it is affecting their social and physical well being. Can the obesity discussion be one of the results of a society that is suffering in technology addiction en masse? Have we become societies of extremes where “addictions” are seen as being part and parcel of being successful? Are you addicted?