Ever since Google Glass was released, it has inspired excitement and invited controversy. Consumer and critic opinions have run the gamut from despising to adoring the inventive, wearable computer. However, an unidentified Sailor has experienced a very negative side effect of using the device: addiction.
According to The Guardian, the Sailor checked himself in to rehab initially believing he was suffering from alcoholism. During rehab, not only are patients not allowed to drink, but all electronic devices are temporarily confiscated. Doctors noticed that while speaking with the Sailor, he repeatedly moved his right hand to his forehead in a motion that mirrored the action of turning Google Glass on.
The Sailor claimed to have worn the device roughly 18 hours a day and would remove it only for sleeping and showering. He would feel frustrated and argumentative without Google Glass, and described dreams in which he viewed everything through the devices camera.
Despite the uncommon source of his addiction, doctors treated him as a regular patient. The Sailor was released after 35 days and is currently undergoing outpatient treatment. However, this does not mean that the medical community is unified in acknowledging addiction to the internet or electronic devices. Many contest that these types of addictions are actually the result of other psychological influences.
Dr. Andrew Doan, the head of addictions and resilience research at the U.S. Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program (SARP), claims that internet addiction is a legitimate, standalone issue and new research and treatment methods are inevitable.
“People used to believe alcoholism wasn’t a problem – they blamed the person or the people around them,” Doan said. “It’s just going to take a while for us to realize that this is real.”
The patient’s initial symptoms included: involuntary movements, cravings, memory problems, and irritability when not wearing Google Glass. According to Doan, “[the patient] said the Google Glass withdrawal was greater than the alcohol withdrawal he was experiencing.”
Google Glass allows users to access the internet and other programs at all times as long as the device is being worn. Rather than needing to sit down at a computer, place a laptop on their thighs, or even pull out a phone, Glass provides immediate hands-free accessibility. To many, this convenience is a boon to productivity. But instant hands-free internet also means that psychological rewards associated with computer use and browsing come with almost no physical cost or wait time.
“There’s nothing inherently bad about Google Glass,” Doan said. “It’s just that there is very little time between these rushes. So for an individual who’s looking to escape, for an individual who has underlying mental dysregulation, for people with a predisposition for addiction, technology provides a very convenient way to access these rushes.
“And the danger with wearable technology is that you’re allowed to be almost constantly in the closet, while appearing like you’re present in the moment.”