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Part I:
Understanding the
Island Syndrome

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Part 1: Understanding the Island Syndrome

(August 12, 2010)

What's in the News?

One of the consequences of the Island Syndrome is that many of us come to live within an artificial environment, which I refer to as the Bubble. Within the Bubble, we are both connected and isolated at the same time. As such, we are never able to satisfy completely our needs to create and maintain in-person connections with other people. This has an interesting effect: we communicate more and more, without actually getting what we want.

As a result, we enter a strange, positive feedback loop, in which we engage in behavior that is against our long-term best interests without understanding what is happening and why. In a moment, I'll talk about the details. Before I do, let's take a quick look at what happens to our culture with so many people starting to live in the Bubble.

Plastic Surgeon Was Texting in Car Before Fatal Crash

Tuesday August 17, 2010 (People Magazine)

"Dr. Frank Ryan was sending a Twitter message about his border collie just before his fatal car accident, his ex-girlfriend tells People. 'He lived up in Malibu on a tiny street and he was texting while driving and he accidentally went over the cliff,' Charmaine Blake says. Ryan's family was told by investigators that the Tweeting caused the wreck on Monday..."

Too Wired, Techies Regroup, Reach Out

November 22, 2007 (Los Angeles Times)

"Like many professionals, Mark Stiffler spent countless hours surfing the Internet, typing e-mails and talking on a cell phone. The 'wired' life took a toll. It made him edgy and disconnected. His dependence on high-technology began feeling much like addiction and, like many addictions, this one affected his personal relationships. 'Many of us are wondering if technology is taking over,' said Stiffler, who owns a Web development firm.

"He isn't alone in his concerns. Recently he joined an eclectic cadre of techies intent on weaning themselves from their dependence on high technology... 'I see people very overwhelmed,' said Leif Hansen, a Gig Harbor, Wash., theologian and personal coach. 'It's a touchy subject. As with any addiction, people are somewhat in denial. Part of it is people really like living in their virtual worlds.' With technology, 'we are increasing the ability to reach each other,' he said, 'but the depth and quality of that reach is not increased'..."

Pros and Cons of the Virtual Workplace

April 17, 2007 (Yahoo-HotJobs)

"As advances in wireless technology continue to blur professional and personal boundaries in the lives of American adults, a new Yahoo-HotJobs survey reveals that many professionals have love-hate relationships with their gadgets. Three out of four survey respondents said they use the same wireless device (cell phone, laptop, or 'smart phone') for work and personal purposes... Survey respondents struggle with being too connected.

"More than one-fourth of the professionals (26 percent) said they felt like they were on a 'permanent corporate leash' because of their wireless devices. And 33 percent reported being easily distracted by work-related emails and calls during their personal time. 'Work to Live' author and coach Joe Robinson sums up the situation this way: 'The lines between work and home have become so blurred, the only way you can tell them apart is that one has a bed'..."

Teen drivers ignore cell phone restrictions

June 9, 2008 (Associated Press)

"The social lives of most teenagers tend to revolve around their cell phones — even when they are behind the wheel. 'People don't want to be inaccessible for even 15 minutes driving up the street,' said Jeannie Harrison, 19, a sophomore at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. 'They're so used to being accessible all the time.'

"Targeting inexperienced motorists, several states have passed laws during the past five years restricting cell phone use by teenage drivers... Researchers who watched as high school students left school found that teenage drivers used their cell phones at about the same rate both before and after the law took effect..."

For the 12-To-24 Set, Boredom Is a Recreational Hazard

August 7, 2006 (Los Angeles Times)

"...A new poll finds that a large majority of the 12- to 24-year-olds surveyed are bored with their entertainment choices some or most of the time, and a substantial minority think that even in a kajillion-channel universe, they don't have nearly enough options. 'I feel bored like all the time, cause there is like nothing to do,' said Shannon Carlson, 13, of Warren, Ohio, a respondent who has an array of gadgets, equipment and entertainment options at her disposal, but can't ward off ennui..."

Secret Teen Network Used to Plan Suburban Hazing

May 10, 2003 (Associated Press)

"A videotaped hazing... has humiliated and shocked students and administrators at a suburban Chicago high school that once enjoyed a prestigious reputation... The students apparently arranged the event in secret, taking pains to make sure school administrators — who suspected the girls were planning something — did not find out the time and place. 'We have determined the kids had a network of cell phones, pagers, text messages and instant messages to keep each other informed,' said school board member Tom Shaer..."

No Cell Phone? No BlackBerry? No E-mail? No way.

January 11, 2007 (USA Today)

"San Francisco — Joan Brady can't even count the number of computers that friends have foisted upon her over the years. Laptops. Desktops. Monitors. It's as if they can't help themselves, as if they just can't accept her for who she is: a woman who dares to live without a PC in the heart of Techtropolis... Call Brady a 'tech-no', a member of a dwindling — some might say occasionally oppressed — minority who are resisting the worldwide movement to be constantly connected. They're just saying no to the very technologies that increasingly are captivating most everybody else..."

Targeting Online Games Towards Teenage Girls

July 18, 2007 (Forbes)

"The MTV Networks' Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group will invest $100 million in casual gaming over the next two years, primarily in 2008-2009... [includes] the planned early 2008 launch of, dubbed 'the first major casual gaming site to focus solely on teen girls'... The idea seems to be grab them as young as possible and keep them moving to various age-appropriate options..."

Devices Enforce Silence of Cell Phones, Illegally

November 4, 2007 (New York Times)

"As cell phone use has skyrocketed, making it hard to avoid hearing half a conversation in many public places, a small but growing band of rebels is turning to a blunt countermeasure: the cell phone jammer, a gadget that renders nearby mobile devices impotent..."

Advertisers In Touch With Teens' Cell Phones

May 23, 2008 (Los Angeles Times)

"Yakking teens and phones have been inseparable for decades. The difference today is that teens use their cell phones for a lot more than just talking. It has become a palm-size entertainment and information center increasingly consuming their time and attention. Advertisers are realizing that if they want to reach teens, they need their number — literally...

Teens don't seem to mind the text messages they receive from the retailers. Only 4% of people who sign up for the texts ask to stop getting them. And 2% to 4% of those who see or receive ads on mobile phones click on them to find out more information. On the Internet via computers, so-called click-through rates are generally closer to 0.01%."

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The Island Syndrome
1. What Is the Island Syndrome?
2. What's in the News?
3. Difficult Questions
4. Why the Nature of Communication...
5. No Man Is an Island
6. Putting a Name to the Malaise
7. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
Living in the Bubble
8. What's in the News?
9. The Three Mandatory Machines
10. Life in the Bubble
11. Why We Keep On Keeping On
12. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
The Importance of the Brain's Biochemical Environment
13. What's in the News?
14. The Story of Dave
15. Importance of Neurotransmitters
16. The Stuff of Moods, Feelings and...
17. What Does Dave Need?
18. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
19. Introduction to Part II
20. The Island Syndrome
21. Excessive Text Messaging
22. Excessive Pornography Use
23. Understanding the Biology
24. Hormones and Neurotransmitters
25. The Pleasure Center
26. Too Much, Too Fast: Craving and...
27. The Female and Male Brains
28. Biology of Excessive Text Messaging
29. Biology of Excessive Pornography...
30. Conclusion: The Island Syndrome...
31. References