Internet Addiction? Or Social Evolution?

I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind before, “I’m addicted to the Internet”. Stop! You are no more addicted to the Internet than a crackhead is addicted to a crack pipe! The Internet is the tool not the drug. It’s the information highway to our interests, our desires, our hopes, and our dreams. The Internet gives us pleasure; it feeds our imagination, strengthens our knowledge, and connects us to people we share commonalities with all across the world with whom we would not otherwise be able to connect with.

The evolution of socialization.

Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., a professor of anthropology for the Arts and Sciences at Washington University states that animals and humans benefit from being social and believes supporting evidence exists to back up his claim. According to Dr. Sussman there are two areas of the primate and human brain that are stimulated when we cooperate (socialize) with each other. Dr. Sussman believes we’ve evolved to gain pleasure form socialization through the release of hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin which play a large role in social recognition and trust.  

We must stop and ask ourselves an important question; are we becoming less social or are we becoming more social? I think most of us can agree that we’re defiantly becoming more connected through emerging technologies resulting in new ways we humans interact with each other. Can the expansion of connections between people occur with a decrease in socialization?

Many people will agree that the growth of technology in the last couple decades has lead us to be a lot less social. We’re texting instead of talking, joining Hangouts instead meeting in person, and socializing on virtual networks instead of our local coffee shop with our real world friends and neighbors. But socializing doesn’t have to occur in face to face, person to person, and voice to voice situations for us to continue being social, it’s just become a lot more convenient since the rise of all the wonderful technology gadgets and social media sites that bring us together.

Humans are not retreating away from our nature of being social creatures we’re moving forward evolving into something much bigger and more complex, a place where we feel more socially connected right from the comfort of our own homes, offices, libraries, and smartphones that can be taken just about anywhere and still receive Internet access. The world itself evolved through the process of making things more convenient and efficient. It’s nature finding its way.

Yesterday I rode in the elevator with someone who was fixated on his cell phone just as I was. He looked up at me and said “what would we do without our cell phones?” I thought for a second, “I have no idea”. But later on it dawned on me that we could question the same for just about everything that has become a depending part in our lives. What would we do with out cars, air conditioning, refrigeration, or indoor plumbing if it they were taken away? The only difference now is that we’re from a generation where we didn’t always have cell phones or the Internet. We can look back in a time where things were done in a less convenient and efficient way, but back then it was the most efficient and convenient way of doing things. To take away our cell phones and Internet access would be just the same as taking away the light bulb two decades after Edison invented it.

Change isn’t always viewed as a good thing. Change is often scary when no one knows the direction their heading and every step taken is taken blindly. But to condemn a direction that’s happening naturally would be no different than condemning the evolution of mankind.

Are we addicted to the Internet? Or are we something else - genetically hardwired with pleasure releasing hormones pushing us to invent ways in which we can socially connect in the most convenient and efficient ways possible? It seems to me we’re in the midst of a social paradigm shift rather than an Internet addiction epidemic.
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