I wanted to take a quick moment to share a treasure I found while crawling Wired's 1994 archives:
Déjà vu, right? With this week's Apple Watch announcement, the world is abuzz with this concept of a new "bionic" race -- one in which humans are now linked (and, might I add, with a lovely array of magnetic and traditional clasp bands) to the devices already held so close from day to day. Is there much point in asking an audience to silence their cell phones when, even from the comfort of their pocket or purse, they receive the same updates from their wrist? Think of the ramifications in classrooms, meetings, cars, desk jobs, and movie theaters worldwide.
Before I go much further, I should note that as an Apple nerd, this post may be a bit biased. As much as I feel I should feel wary of, even threatened by, this solidified meaning of the word "attachment" in the digital age, I can't help but feel excited.
So let's talk about attachment.
On the day of the Apple Event, one of my undergraduate research assistants sent me a screenshot of her Facebook News Feed (shown to the right), which bemoans society's ever-growing, almost personal, relationship with technological devices.
Echoing this sentiment, a TIME article written by (a personal favorite) Nicholas Carr stated that,
If the Apple Watch proves popular, it will not just mark “the next chapter in Apple’s story,” as Cook described it. It will change our relationship to computers, weaving the already ubiquitous devices and their apps even more deeply into the fabric of our lives. The personal and social ramifications could be far-reaching.
This war has spanned at least two decades, as the once innocuous existence of the Internet and digital communication began to grow into cancerous tumors of hacking, cybersex, multi-user dungeons (i.e., MUDs), and 4chan (just to name a few). As technology's existence has grown at an exponential rate, so too have its infinite uses...which may or may not be a good thing. The nature of technology is inherently dual, and research suggests that its placement on the Good-Bad spectrum depends on the nature, purpose, and extent of its use (Bodford & Kwan, under review; Kwan & Bodford, 2015; Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 2008).
So let's hypothesize the effects of engaging with technology for the purpose of forming an attachment to a nonhuman entity -- say, EVE Online, an online community, a social networking site, a phone.
If you haven't seen Spike Jonze's movie (read: masterpiece) Her, I can't recommend it highly enough -- partially because it touches on this very topic of attachment to technology. Over the course of the movie, Joaquin's character falls in love with an operating system built to contain an ever-learning human-like intelligence. And like the Apple Watch, this OS remained close at every second through earpiece, phone, and computer alike.
This post doesn't have a moral, lesson, or bottom line: It really depends on how you interpret the situation. I'm excited for an Apple Watch. As someone who forgets to look at her phone for hours at a time, it would be nice to have reminders (literally on hand) of unanswered texts; as someone who is directionally challenged, the idea of a portable and less distracting GPS is a dream. For many, the Watch may answer their hopes for an easy, time efficient way to keep track of their health; for others, it may function as a personal assistant, guiding them through each busy day.
However, each of us engages with technology in substantially different ways, and it may be the case that the Apple Watch only fuels society's increasing concerns of phone and Internet addiction. For a subset of the population, this ever-present access to communication, information, and entertainment may be more detrimental than it is beneficial, and as unfortunate as that possibility might be, very little can be done on a mass scale. Again citing Carr,
As the history of clocks reveals, strapping a technological companion and monitor onto your wrist can alter, in ways that are hard to foresee, life’s textures and rhythms. And never before have we had a tool that promises to be so intimate a companion and so diligent a monitor as the Apple Watch.
An "intimate companion"? Not necessarily; for me, it will help me navigate the Phoenix metropolitan area, and will keep me off my butt 24 hours a day. It will help me stay informed of incoming texts and messages, and will remind me where and when I should be next.
But for others, I cannot say. Time will tell whether the DSM-VI will include a diagnoses for Watch Addiction.