Is the smart phone our new ‘drug’ of choice?

Question: What is your ‘drug’ of choice? A, Caffeine. B, Alcohol. C Your cell phone. Don’t get antsy, we’ll provide the answer soon.

Imagine: You’re sitting at your favorite restaurant, out on the town with your companion, and you’re gazing into each other’s eyes after a glass of fine wine and maybe wondering why you ordered an appetizer of brussel sprouts and kale salad and at that moment the phone signals.  Do you, A, ignore it   B, answer it  C, You should have turned it off and concentrated on the fine diminishing art of conversation. Someone is reaching out to make contact. Who is it? What takes precedence, your date or whoever?

The world is at our fingertips and that’s a good thing. With current technology we can direct a question like ‘what’s the capital of some small foreign country?’ to our phone and we’ll get an answer, but to every action is a re-action.  We have slid head first into a world of distraction fed by our need to be recognized by the world at large.

Do you tend to get a little anxious when say, within a certain time period like an hour, no one calls, texts or connects with you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn? You may be suffering from Tele- socio-hyper-connectivity syndrome. I just made that up, but you can see where this is going.

The new periodic table

By the time you read this a new, more aggressive form of communication could invade your personal space.

When you misplace your cell phone do you get anxious because you think someone wants to get in touch and you won’t be able to reply thisquick? This is a relatively new condition which affects all ages, but teens are quite vulnerable to its socially impactful machinations.

When that happens, your body is releasing Cortisol, a steroid hormone, known medically as hydrocortisone. It is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration.

Psychologist Larry Rosen says technology really does wreak havoc on anxiety levels. He and his team at California State University Dominguez Hills have found that when people spend time away from their phones, their brain signals the adrenal gland to produce a burst of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol triggers a fight-or-flight response. It’s today’s answer to the cave persons feeling when they saw a hungry animal (Not a dinosaur) eyeing them. Fact: the dinosaurs were long gone when man walked the earth. 65 million years separate humans from dinosaurs.

But let’s get back to the future. That phone you’re carrying is like a reward machine. Every time you look at it you want to be (Hope to be) rewarded with a message. It’s the latest form of ‘ego massage’ and yes, you are the center of the universe.

At least that’s how former Google product manager Tristan Harris sees it. On 60 Minutes, he told Anderson Cooper that Silicon Valley programmers are engineering your phone and its apps to make you check them more and more. Are you starting to miss the ‘old days’ when the phone rang and you walked to the wall to which it was attached; picked up the ‘receiver’, said hello and it wasn’t a telemarketer?

Snapchat is the app that teens rank as the “most important social network,” and it’s keeping them hooked by design. Snapchat’s “streaks” feature shows the number of days in a row that two people have traded photos. The angst of breaking a streak is akin to having a nightmare in which you’re wearing your old goth clothing to your cousin’s communion and you wake up but you’re really there, and the priest is looking at you like you’re the devil.

And the bottom line: Why on earth would you order an appetizer of Brussel sprouts and kale salad?