#SWAAYthenarrative

How To Identify And Address Symptoms Of Technology Addiction

4min read
Lifestyle

There's a good chance someone you love has an addiction problem. And it's not what you think.

Not opioids.

Not wine.

Not gambling.

Not even final clearance, gift with purchase, or my personal favorite, sale shopping.

It's the Internet and all the shiny, dopamine inducing distraction that comes with it.

And no one is safe.

Over this last summer, a good friend of mine's 9-year-old son spent a full 24 hours gaming online continually. He wet his pants, he wouldn't eat. He couldn't be pulled away. To say he was obsessed is an understatement. She's a good Mom, but she, like so many of us, is pulled in too many directions. She's single, raising him alone and trying to build her small business that supports them, working pretty much seven days a week. So what started as a simple distraction to keep her son occupied while he was with her at her studio, became a full, raging, seemingly unstoppable addiction.

Over this last summer, a good friend of mine's 9-year-old son spent a full 24 hours gaming online continually.

Talk about a wake-up call. But this story isn't mom-shaming. The great news is that today, his online and off-line life is much different than it was a few months ago, and he is a much happier little guy.

HOW SERIOUS CAN THIS BE? EVERYONE CHECKS THEIR PHONE 150 TIMES A DAY, RIGHT?

Of course, you might be thinking, "That is extreme! Nothing like that is happening around me—I would be able to see it." But in a recent study, 45% of teens surveyed said they were online "constantly." That means pretty much all the time. And we all know that it's so easy to think like my friend did, that since almost all kids have digital devices, that this is normal and acceptable behavior. Another study found that 41% of teens were suffering from "short sleep," seven hours or less per night. They were waking up late and not feeling rested. The researchers found that nighttime screen use—in the dark, most notably, was the biggest culprit.

But here's something to think about: Games, social media platforms, and video streaming services are all specifically designed to keep you there longer. To addict you. They show you just the right video, allow you to move to the next exciting level, to see how many likes you've picked up on that selfie in the last ten minutes. Really, their whole business depends on being able to turn you into someone who comes back more and more frequently and stays on the app for longer and longer periods. It's called "time on site," and it's one of the most critical metrics of digital success. More is better for them, but that doesn't mean it's better for us.In fact, teens who are online constantly tend to grow up into depressed young adults.

IT'S EASY FOR NORMAL TO TURN INTO NOMO-PHOBIA

Our culture has become so accustomed to being attached to our devices at all times that there's even a term for the irrational fear of being without your phone: "nomo-phobia". Even if you wouldn't define yourself as addicted, what you may think of as normal technology use might actually be having a more significant effect on you than you realize. Scrolling, texting, and Candy Crushing throughout your day can negatively impact your sleep, increase your anxiety, expose you to high levels of EMF (check out our EMF Radiation Guide for the full scoop), and distract you from other important tasks at hand. Did you know your dependence on your phone actually decreases your ability to focus and perform well on tasks as long as it's in the same room as you - even if it's turned over or in your purse. Recently I did a podcast with a professor who studies the impact of social media, gaming, and scrolling on smartphones on teens. He found that as the amount of time spent online (not including school use) increases, the level of happiness decreases. There's a direct relationship between less time online and how happy you are. That's something to take note of. All that being said, many of us are under the influence of our smartphones, even if we aren't experiencing extreme addiction.

GET BACK TO BALANCE WITH A DIGITAL DETOX (NO REHAB REQUIRED)

When it comes to Internet addiction and device dependency, we are at the front end of the curve, and we can control the outcome, just like my friend did with her son. Regardless of if you are deep in addiction or just find yourself scrolling through Instagram late into the night, the answer to returning to balance lies with a digital detox.

He found that as the amount of time spent online (not including school use) increases, the level of happiness decreases.

My friend enforced a strict 30-day detox for her son. He definitely had withdrawals for the first couple of weeks, but by the end of 30 days, her son had turned back into the lovely boy he was before he discovered gaming. I recently interviewed him for an upcoming story, and he had done a full 180: playing outside more, connecting through conversation, having fun, and wishing more of his friends would sign-off and get outside with him.

If you find yourself or your loved ones on the other end of the spectrum, I recommend trying an hour a day or one day a week digital detox. Dine device free, take a walk on the beach totally unplugged, give someone your full attention in conversation, or try creating something new with your hands. You'll be surprised by how your anxiety levels decrease, your joy increases, and your relationship with technology becomes healthier and healthier.

AS USUAL, WOMEN ARE GOING TO HAVE TO SOLVE THIS.

Honestly, as women, we tend to be concerned with not only our own ability to thrive, but everyone else we love as well. So if the word is going to get out, if there must be a voice of reason, if we're going to change the narrative around our use of digital devices, women are the people to do that.

That's why I created Tech Wellness specifically to talk to women. Women get it. In fact, it was a very wise woman, Dr Kimberly Young and our first Tech Wellness Digital Addiction expert, who first coined the term Internet Addiction in the 1990's—presenting the concept to the American Psychological Association as a possible diagnosis. She even developed this test to determine if you should be backing off of that Instagram time.

I'm not asking you to become a sign-carrying vigilante about internet use—we all know that's not attractive or effective. I'm saying, be aware and alert to friends and family who may need to take that little test and reclaim their balance. And while you're at it, perhaps test out your own digital detox and see how you thrive—mind, body, and spirit.

Be Well! August

This article was originally published December 26, 2019.

5 Min Read
People

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top


You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.