In our current world of ever evolving technology and its full integration into all facets of our daily lives, it was only a matter of time before the very idea of living and breathing without it would result in the onset of an anxiety disorder. enter disconnect anxiety.
An interesting study released by the solutions research group showed that in an age where we are all connected to one another via text, IM and the internet on devices such as smart phones, states “the American consumer is more connected and has more instant access to people and information than at any time in history. Losing that access creates disconnect anxiety.”
They define this anxiety as the “various feelings of disorientation and nervousness experienced when a person is deprived of Internet and wireless access for a period of time.”
Now let me tell you that as a recent, and I mean very recent owner of a smartphone (a blackjack 2, I opted not to go blackberry) having the internet on my phone instantly changed the way I felt. I immediately began accessing all my favorite websites and saving them to my favorites such as myspace, imdb, google, craigslist and of course blogger (just to name a very few). Having the ability to receive and manage emails instantly on my phone is such a freedom and ease that I can not even describe. Basically having this degree of access, as many people know, feels like the ultimate freedom with literally no strings attached…or so it seemed.
A funny thing happened on day 3 of owning my bj2, upon picking up my phone to check my emails, it turned out that I could not, for whatever reason, log on. Let me tell you that after staring at my screen with its lack of internet connection, I felt every feeling of disorientation and nervousness, I literally felt completely disconnected, completely cut off from all forms of my newly acquired freedom.
Now to be completely real, not only do I have literally like 1.5 friends, one of which is my dog, I had only had this phone for 3 days! All I could do aside from completely stressing the fuck out, was to attempt to manically log on over and over again, I seriously tried to jump online 15 times, before I realized that a urgent phone call had to be made to at&t about this horrible incident which had occurred. A new problem arised when after realizing that there was no one to speak to on a sunday, the reality that my only other option of contacting support via the internet, was the issue which I was trying to resolve in the first place, only added to my stress.
I eventually had to calm down and accept that for whatever reason I could not connect, and don’t get me wrong I was still definitely checking my phone every hour on the hour, but I had to wait it out until monday morning when I would definitely be contacting someone about this issue. After it was resolved at 7 am monday morning, and having the ability to connect, a weight was literally elevated from my soldiers, I immediately felt all of my tension and anxiety flush out of my system. The frightening thing is that if I felt this level of anxiety only after 3 days, I can only imagine what the future will bring.
Which leads me back to the study…according to the research 68% of people experience anxiety when disconnected. And it turns out the highest percentage 50% to be exact are between the ages of 25 and 49 (right where I pathetically stand with bj2 in hand.) The major factors which play into why people experience disconnect anxiety are safety, work, social and navigation. These are pretty self explanatory as we use our cell phones for work and leisure and now with gps enabled phones we have reached an entirely different dependence where safety is a prime concern. The study goes on to provide many statistics and terms including the type of withdrawal known as”crackberry” (with blackberry being the dominant smartphone on the market, this is the term for those whose crack like addiction to their bb, is only exaggerated with internet outages.)
Now to maintain some perspective, I still remember having pagers, when the beginning stages of texting consisted of using numbers as letters, and I mean numbers in the sense that 1 177155 400 was “I miss you”. Then I remember getting my first cell phone after I graduated, when cell phones were still not the norm at my high school. I remember when song ringtones where not actually real songs, I remember when texting was something new. Shit, I remember cell phones before they came in color (and I am not talking about the exterior!) so to now fully embrace technology in all its glory and having instant access to the net, and then having to deal with the negative effects that it has upon us, is just so strange to me. At the age of 26, I feel that I have fully witnessed the transistion and integration of technology leading to not only this, but what I believe will be many more disorders as the side effects arise from our consistent need to stay connected.
Now while the study only defines and identifies this new form of anxiety, it is only a matter of time before it is fully embraced by the medical community and entered into the next version of the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders.) So next time you can’t jump online, or send a text, or check an email, and you feel yourself feeling completely stressed out, frustrated or anxious, just remember that you are not alone, in fact you are part of the growing majority who suffer from disconnect anxiety, but just relax and take a breath, because before you know it you’ll be popping a pill for it.