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Professor Sitt lectures on the dangers of technology addiction
Professor Sitt lectures on the dangers of technology addiction
Photo: Zhoudi Tang
Olga Strok, Eunjung Lee and Saleh Mugannah are members of Dr. Sitt’s team to prove that cellphone addiction is a real epidemic.
Article by Sara Dowd - December 3rd, 2012

Technology’s effect on humanity is undeniable. The countless benefits of having such an advanced society allow us to ignore the potential consequences.

Dr. David Sitt presented a lecture on how to balance the benefits of technology and the potential costs of being a bit too addicted to your cell phone.

Albert Einstein purportedly once said, “I fear the day when technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”

Sitt, who is a therapist, educational entrepreneur and psychology professor at Baruch College, opened his lecture with this quote and posed the question to the audience, “What was Einstein so afraid of?”

Before the lecture began, Sitt’s dedicated team asked attendees to drop their cellphones off before entering the room.

The team also handed out “smart pads” that were actually small, paper note pads and asked them to keep track of every time they felt the urge to check their phone.

The generation gap was evident from how people reacted to the request. Older participants were much more willing to surrender their devices.

As team member Eunjung Lee asked a woman in the audience to “get the full experience and accept the challenge,” she simply responded, “That’s really not a challenge for me, no one ever calls me.”

Younger individuals seemed more hesitant, but just about everyone fully immersed themselves in the lecture and relinquished their gadgets, providing a tech-free space for everyone in the room.

Sitt started the lecture first by explaining the regions of the brain that are important to technology.

He described the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala, as the section that allows our cellphones to make us happy.

The little burst of joy one experiences while receiving a text is caused by a release of the hormone dopamine.

This is very similar to the physiological reaction one experiences when in love or taking a substance like cocaine.

Just as drugs like cocaine are highly addictive, technology can cause the same type of dependency.

Sitt joked that while teaching in Baruch’s 500-person lecture hall, “students are constantly checking their phones.”

He explained that when students obsessively check for text messages or Facebook comments, they are really searching for the dopamine rush, just like what an addict seeks when they take their substance of choice.

During the recent Hurricane Sandy disaster, many New Yorkers were forced to face the consequences of constantly giving in to their craving for technology.

A recent statistic purported that 70 percent of adults admit to sleeping with their cellphones in their bed with them or just next to them.  Sitt asked the audience to consider what they went through when they didn’t have their phone.

He explained that the brain actually goes through withdrawal symptoms due to the dependency.  Reports of “tech rage,” which is caused by the increase in anxiety associated with addiction to technology, are becoming more and more prevalent due to this over-reliance.

The lecture acknowledged that the influence of technology on our society can be quite positive.

The speed at which information is shared with a mass amount of people is nothing short of astonishing, and users of websites like Twitter are utilizing this in increasingly beneficial ways.

Sitt explained that each year, Twitter reports the top 10 hash tags that trended over the course of the year.  No news events occurred in the top 10 in 2010.

Conversely, in 2011 the top hash tag was #egypt, for a movement that would not have been possible without the use of social media.

In addition, the rapid “fact checking” that occurred during the recent presidential debates showed how engaged Americans are with their political system.

Technology was able to facilitate the interest in political honesty and encourage informed discourse.

Despite all of this progress, as a therapist and active member of the psychology community, in general, Sitt is privy to the many negative results of the rapid technological growth we are currently witnessing.

It has led to what Sitt refers to as “pseudo-ADD.”

This is a new manifestation of the developmental disorder ADD, attention deficit disorder, that usually has to begin in childhood and causes affected adults to begin to experience symptoms like an inability to concentrate or increased hyperactivity.

In addition, many people who find it nearly impossible to balance the plethora of available technology in their lives are beginning to experience something called Tech-Induced Stress Syndrome, which dramatically increases an individual’s anxiety.

Sitt concluded his lecture on a positive note by ensuring that there are ways to counteract the negative qualities of technology while still taking advantage of the benefits.

His suggestions include creating a boundary between you and your cellphone by observing the Sabbath or turning off your cell for an hour a day.

Being mindful about your cell use is also beneficial as well as practicing physically relaxing exercises like deep breathing.

If students are interested in finding out more about Sitt’s lectures or other projects, visit his page

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