By CAITLIN JOHNSTON
Staff Writer at the Dallas News
Published 05 July 2011 11:50 PM on Dallasnews.com
Michael Decker is always reachable. The 42-year-old creative director from Dallas sleeps with his phone nearby on his nightstand. From when he wakes up and checks it until he sets it down before bed, his phone is constantly with him.
“It’s an intrusion into your own private life,” he says. “It leads to burnout if you can never turn it off.”
Decker, who owns an iPhone, a laptop and an iPad, uses his gadgets for work and for play. Though he makes a point not to look at his phone at dinner, he says his friends still chide him. Put that thing down, they say.
“They always have a point,” he says. “It becomes more important than truly interacting with friends and family.”
For most of the population, technology is a tool to enhance our lives. Our phone beeps, and we feel compelled to check whatever new text, email or tweet has come our way. Decker’s behavior is not uncommon, nor is it particularly unsettling.
Recently, indications of something more malicious have started to rumble. The Counseling Center at UT Dallas has a page on its website dedicated to computer addiction. A quick search of Yahoo Groups returns more than 100 groups related to gaming addictions, with names like WOW_widow and EverQuest-Widows.
Search further, and extreme texting and gaming become more than an annoying character trait in a child or girlfriend. Excessive use can lead to addictive behavior, says therapist Cosette Rae, who launched a technology rehabilitation center in the Seattle area. She says her clients, far from being isolated cases, are part of a newly recognized problem: Technology has the potential to cause addictive behavior, experts say.