We Are All Addicted


By Samuel Greengard

Step into an airport concourse, a hospital waiting room or a restaurant, and there's one thing you can pretty much bank on: A television set suspended from a wall or ceiling will likely be droning away in the background with virtually no one paying any attention to it. Meanwhile, you will find many people— I'd venture to say the majority of people—thumbing through messages or fiddling with apps on their mobile phones.

Today, I'm sitting at a boarding gate at Ontario Airport in Southern California, and I'm attempting to cope with a TV blaring in a restaurant that's closed. Breathless commentators, led by CNN's Nancy Grace, are sensationalizing a horrific murder, and the audio is echoing throughout the concourse.

Nobody is watching the TV, and nobody appears to be listening to it. Instead, almost everyone sitting here is either talking on a mobile phone or thumbing through messages.

Noise. Noise. Noise. These days, it seems as if electronic babble is the new quiet. Truth be told, a lot of people can't seem to function without an electronic tether. TV, radio, satellite radio … something … anything.

Recently, a friend mentioned that his daughter can't study for school without the TV on. When her TV broke, she had to borrow his in order to cope. Apparently, she is not alone. My teenage boys say that they study better with the TV running.

We've always had a few people who couldn't cope with life without their BFF, the TV. But it seems as though the situation is getting worse. We're rapidly degenerating into a society that can't function without an e-drip and background noise during all waking moments.

We're morphing into a society that avoids contact with other people in a physical space, but connects to strangers through social media and other electronic tools. How many times have you sat at a dinner table and watched people texting rather than interacting with the people there?

Of course, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with TV, radio, mobile phones and iPads. They're remarkable tools that enhance our lives in many ways. But when they're all running simultaneously all the time, we have a problem. Is it any wonder that we're witnessing more rude and antisocial behavior?

The truth is that we're increasingly tuned into no one, while we're wired into everything.