Are your Facebook friends more interesting than those you have in real life?
Has high-speed Internet made you impatient with slow-speed children?
Do you sometimes think about reaching for the fast-forward button, only to realize that life does not come with a remote control?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, exposure to technology may be slowly reshaping your personality. Some experts believe excessive use of the Internet, cellphones and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more narcissistic.
“More and more, life is resembling the chat room,” says Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford. “We’re paying a price in terms of our cognitive life because of this virtual lifestyle.”
We do spend a lot of time with our devices, and some studies have suggested that excessive dependence on cellphones and the Internet is akin to an addiction. Web sites like NetAddiction.com offer self-assessment tests to determine if technology has become a drug. Among the questions used to identify those at risk: Do you neglect housework to spend more time online? Are you frequently checking your e-mail? Do you often lose sleep because you log in late at night? If you answered “often” or “always,” technology may be taking a toll on you.
In a study to be published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia subjected 173 college students to tests measuring risk for problematic Internet and gambling behaviors. About 5 percent of the students showed signs of gambling problems, but 10 percent of the students posted scores high enough to put them in the at-risk category for Internet “addiction.”
Technology use was clearly interfering with the students’ daily lives, but it may be going too far to call it an addiction, says Nicki Dowling, a clinical psychologist who led the study. Ms. Dowling...