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Author Adam Alter warns about the dangers of being hooked on electronics

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Writer Adam Alter believes technology has an addictive power over people. He should know.  In his talk Monday at Bowling Green State University, Alter related his own experience with the game Flappy Bird. He was on a six-hour flight from Newark to Los Angeles. He had plans for all he would accomplish in that time. He started by playing the game. Six hours and a continent later, he was still playing the game. “I had lost all sense of the passage of time.” Alter was on campus because his book “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” was chosen as the campus’ Common Read. It raised, said Sheila Roberts, acting vice provost of academic affairs, themes that are familiar and  “frankly a little bit uncomfortable.” Speaking before a packed ballroom mostly of students, Alter described how people’s involvement with technology is increasingly taking over that part of our lives not devoted to work, sleep, and the other necessities of life. That free time “where all the magic happens.” Alter said he deleted Flappy Birds, and its developer Dong Nguyen, in a fit of conscience, even had the game pulled from app stores even though it was making $75,000 a day in advertising and sales. Alter doesn’t see Apple, Facebook, and the other tech giants as following suit. Though, he said, they seem aware of the dangers and are instituting some changes. Alter said he was prompted to write the book after reading a profile of Apple founder Steve Jobs in The New York Times. The reporter, Nick Bilton, commented to Jobs that his kids must love the iPad that had recently been released. Jobs replied they didn’t have one. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” In exploring further, Alter found that Jobs was not alone. His attitude about his children’s engagement with technology was typical of those in the tech industry. This is akin, Alter said to the belief among drug dealers: “Never get high on your own supply.” The author noted that many tech executives send their kids to the Waldorf School of the Peninsula where computers are only allowed after grade 8. Instead much of the learning happens outdoors. Alter wondered: “What were they so concerned about?” Young people, like the majority of those he was addressing, are more tied to technology. A study asked people would they rather have their phone fall and shatter into a 1,000 pieces or break a bone in their hand. About half the young people surveyed preferred to break the bone. Some asked if the injury would keep them from using their phone. The cell phone does, he said, enable us to connect with other people. “It’s a large part of our social well being.” And during the question period after the talk, one young man spoke about how he has friends who suffer from depression and extreme anxiety who call him for support. He feels he can never shut off his phone. But what we have now is not what we will have in 10 years, Alter said. “In 20 years we’ll laugh at Facebook.” Already younger users are fleeing the platform. On the horizon is virtual reality where everyone has a personal set of…

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