During this last year I have been both studying on-line and employed to work from home via the internet, and so my working habits and access to technologies, support and work colleagues has been changed in significant ways. In common with many colleagues, the importance I placed on the internet and mobile technologies has accelerated in recent years, and I have become aware of how divisions between home and working lives have become blurred for many professionals.
At the same time, the word addiction is being used in connection with these technologies – and the internet specifically – in all areas of the press, from academic work to women’s magazines. My intention here was not to investigate in detail the nature of the research that has been carried out since this term first entered the public consciousness, but rather to see where this has now taken us. I have traced some of the literature past and present, outlining some issues that have been raised along the way.
The first article I read was How to beat technology addiction (Tobin, 2011) from the Guardian, and then I picked a woman’s magazine at random to perform a quick search on the word addiction, so that I might assess how often it was used outside and beyond those publications where I would perhaps expect to see it. I chose Elle magazine – and found six references in headlining articles, from shoes to hairstyling – hardly apt terminology to use to describe the subject matter.
I have considered whether the mainstream use of this terminology is a new phenomenon, whether we should we be using it so widely, and also whether we should be drawing new distinctions. Is addiction a helpful term to use as applied to technology? Certain threads weave through and resurface in the readings and present us with dominant themes.