The World Health Organization recently listed gaming addiction as a mental health condition in its 11th International Classification of Diseases.
“Social media addiction” has become such a common phrase uttered in congressional hearings. Articles containing tips for people compulsively attached to their smartphones are rampant.
Technology-induced sicknesses fall under the umbrella of what Travers Scott calls “technopathologies,” which are conditions in which technologies are perceived to have caused or worsened mental and physical illnesses.
Scott, a Clemson University communication faculty member, has just published a new book, “Pathology and Technology: Killer Apps & Sick Users,” which explores these ideas.
Scott told South Carolina Radio Network he examined over 150 years of cases. “The concept and the discussion about social media addiction within a historical context that shows something that comes up again, again, again without a lot of hard medical basis is often,” he said.
If the new form of technology interferes with relationships or work, it might be a sign that a person is venturing into addictive territory. However, Scott said people tend to be too quick to pathologize gaming or usage of the internet or phones. He argues other activities not related to technology can be just as addictive while somehow being stigma-proof.
“The real issues to look at is how we use disease to talk about technology and talk about the proper ways of using it or not,” he added.
The most clear-cut examples relate to repetitive motion on products such as a telegraph or iPod wheel, according to Scott. Physical stress injuries like carpal tunnel are hard to debate, but the things get much murkier when people claim proximity to technology can be harmful.