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Would Traffic Lights on Sidewalks Help With Distracted Walking?

Would Traffic Lights on Sidewalks Help With Distracted Walking?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Have you ever bumped into something or even someone because you were too busy using your smartphone? If you have, you are not alone. Nowadays, smartphone users have become accustomed to walking down the street without taking notice of their surroundings.  Because of this reality, a city in Germany has decided to embark on an interesting experiment. Germany will soon add traffic signals on sidewalks that will enable pedestrians to gauge for traffic flow without having to look up from their devices. That’s right; Germany is installing traffic signals because it would be absurd to expect people to, you know, pay attention?

Sarcasm aside, smartphones are becoming a major problem when it comes to texting while driving, and even texting while walking. It may seem like a minor issue to walk and glare at your phone, but people have actually died from it. Over the past few years, there have been increasing numbers of pedestrians who have either come very close to getting hit or who have been fatally hit by a car because they were lost in the glare of their cell phone screens.

In Augsburg, Germany, traffic signals will now be over the course of the pedestrian sidewalks.  Reports indicate that the lights will be visible from meters away which many say will have the added benefit of helping city cyclists.

“It creates a whole new level of attention,” city spokeswoman Stephanie Lermen stated in The Washington Post.

To some, the concept may seem like a unnecessary waste of money. However, Lermen believes the contrary is true. A recent survey in several European cities found that 20 percent of pedestrians were distracted by their smartphones. Young people are especially vulnerable because they are more likely to risk their safety for a quick look at their Facebook profiles or WhatsApp messages, the survey found.

Could it be overkill? Maybe. Still, there is no denying that distracted walking can have tragic consequences.  For a while, pedestrian fatalities were going down. Between the mid-70s and early 2000s, pedestrian deaths declined to around 11 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities. Now, the numbers have jumped 15 percent climbing to 4,735 fatalities in 2013. That breaks down to 1 pedestrian death every two hours!

Cell phones are a major culprit of these accidents. The percentage of pedestrians killed while using cell phones has risen from less than 1 percent in 2004 to 3.5 percent in 2010. The numbers continue to soar as more apps are created, and more kids are being born in a smartphone-dependent society.  Also, the numbers of pedestrians injured while on their phones have doubled since 2005.

Clearly, there is a need to encourage young people to pay attention to their surroundings. Philadelphia has made some changes to help combat the problem. They came out with the campaign, “Road Safety, Not Rocket Science” that tried to influence the younger generation in a fun way. Their slogan was “pick your head up, put your phone down.” The campaign focused on giving people “mock tickets” for using their phone instead of being focused on their environments. Although the tickets were not real, they allowed people to be aware of their behavior.

Phone addiction is a topic that has been thrown around quite a bit the past few years. Although the concept of it is still controversial, the truth is, many people find it unreasonable to be without their phone for long periods of time. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that being in the present is the most important thing for your health. Try to put the phone away for a moment and instead, take in all your surroundings.

Using your phone all the time may be tempting, but it is dangerous. Pledge to stop distracted walking and get your friends involved. You never know whose life you could change.If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

The Great Internet Addiction Debate

The Great Internet Addiction Debate

Author: Justin Mckibben

America doesn’t have a internet addiction problem, right? Is that even a thing?

Obviously, I’m being facetious… or am I?

You would think this is a ridiculous question with a resounding answer of DUH! Internet addiction is undoubtedly a real thing, and America certainly has a pretty bad cased of it, right?

Everywhere you go you see digital devices of all shapes and sizes. People everywhere seemed sucked into their screens working, checking social media, or aimlessly surfing the web for cat pictures or awesome blogs like mine. It causes a clutter in the hallway at the office, and even more dangerous it causes accidents in traffic when people can pry themselves away from their tweets long enough to DRIVE THEIR CAR!

Of course everyone loves the convenience of smartphones and our independent access to the internet, but when does it cross the line into becoming a full-fledged addiction, and can we classify Internet Addiction as a stand-alone diagnosis?

Internet Getting Out of Hand?

According to some experts, our Internet addiction is becoming a real problem and psychologists say they’re seeing more patients suffering from internet addiction or digital addiction, which in turn can actually create some very real adverse effects. Karin Kassab, a psychologist at Clarity Counseling Center in Wilmington, described some people experiencing the more severe side of internet addiction recently:

“These are the Facebook moms who forget to put their kids to bed or forget to pick their kids up from school. The online gamers who are spending so much time gaming that they lose their job and move back home. When we are talking Internet addiction, it is important to note, this is excessive Internet use at its extreme. The tokens are excessive Internet use and big problems at work, school or socially.”

Kassab is not the first expert to note the gravity of the growing internet addiction, but other experts don’t see internet addiction as an issue that is as serious as we’re making it out to be.

What’s the Big Deal?

Dr. Mark Griffiths is a professor of gambling studies at the Nottingham Trent University and director of the International Gaming Research Unit. According to Griffith there’s nothing inherently wrong with excessively being on a smartphone or connected to the internet as long as it doesn’t interfere with our lives.

So of course these people who are letting their responsibilities tumble around them are not too concerning, and for those who are truly addicted, Dr. Griffith and other experts insist it usually indicates something more severe is going on with that individual. Dr. Griffiths said,

“Often, the excessive use is symptomatic of other underlying problems in that person’s life. Therapeutically, if you find out what that problem is, then the excessive use can disappear.”

Well, yea! That is typically the case with a lot of substance abuse issues. Usually some underlying pattern or mental health disorder creates self-destructive patterns that lead to excessive abuse of a substance, or in this case a device, which becomes a habitual hindrance.

The Great Debate

Kassab agrees with this mindset, adding that for many experts the debate is about whether or not internet addiction can stand on its own as a diagnosis, or if it is simply a new extension or symptom of another condition such as anxiety disorder or depression. Kassab explained,

“There’s great debate over whether Internet addiction is actually its own stand-alone disorder or if it is a consequence of a co-occurring disorder. So, am I depressed therefore that manifests into me staying in, being isolated on the Internet?”

Though the debate continues, recent information shows the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders currently does NOT classify Internet addiction or smartphone addiction as a diagnosis for addiction or treatment on its own… yet?

What do you think? So far Kassab stands by her own verdict to treat internet addiction as a true addiction, and with the prevalence of the symptoms she sees in her clients, she shows no sign of changing her mind on this side of the spectrum.

So what should we view this as? Should we consider internet addiction to be a completely separate and specific addiction with its own symptoms, or should we treat obsessive and excessive internet and social media use as merely aspects of a more understood and accepted mental health disorder?

While internet addiction may not be an official thing, in a society that thrives on technology and social media it is an issue that is growing as quickly and widely as the social media does. With any powerful addiction, there is always help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Using Social Media to Treat Depression

Using Social Media to Treat Depression

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

I’m at it again! #cantstopwontstop

Back to talk about that strangely familiar topic of the connection between the ever present and expanding dominion of social media and depression. It may seem like these articles sometimes present conflicting opinions, and often times those thin lines between healthy and disparaging get skewed.

Let me be clear: social media is an incredible and vibrant format through which we experience things through the testimonies of others (be they true or just false advertising). We as individuals turn it into either an overwhelming obsession or tools for triumph in how we use social media.

Somebody out there is actually saying now that they have designed a way by which we can actually treat depression with social media. And strange enough what they describe actually uses some of the same elements that are credited with contributing to depression and puts just the right spin on it to be clinically advantageous.

The Power of Support

Now I have talked about how some suggest that social media can be dangerous for people with depression. I have stressed before that when respected it can be a beautiful and powerful thing, and when abuse it can become like an all-encompassing adversity. Social media has contributed to vast isolation and loneliness, which multiplied over ‘like’s and ‘share’s (or lack thereof) make a formula for depression. BUT it has also done its part in striking stigma out of some more serious connections to depression such as suicide or suicidal thoughts.

In one study researchers discovered while monitoring college students on social media who had made clear indications about experiencing depression that the most responses they received from their peers were expressions of sympathy and support. Many were met with compassion and stories of similar struggles that lead them away from those feelings of isolation, and researchers concluded that social media was helping to spread the understand about mental health and depression more than ever.

Panoply: New World Therapy

Based on this very same concept of peers supporting and nurturing each other with compassion, there is now a new mental health therapy through social media emerging that has so far yielded optimistically positive results.

A study of 166 people over a 3 week period using peer-to-peer social networking birthed a platform that developers are currently calling “Panoply”. So far the studies show that this new take on social media shaped significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.

Panoply uses self-guided, web-based interventions for depression that are focused on trying to calm anxiety and reverse the symptoms of depression. For the initial study participants posted descriptions of stressful thoughts and situations on the social media platform, and then the “crowd” replied to the post by offering contrasting outlooks or words of encouragement.

The platform is employing a practice that is called “cognitive appraisal”. This is a therapeutic tool used to inspire people to look at a problem from different perspectives. By seeing the situation beyond their immediate feelings someone can even identify what is making them feel that way, and take action to curb that feeling.

Using Panoply also allows people to practice objectively reviewing stressful situations submitted by other users. This also inspires them later to think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that they themselves experience, teaching them how to cope and to relate to others. According to a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research this feature proved to be especially helpful for individuals struggling with depression.

The next step is to test Panoply with a larger, more diverse audience. The researchers hope to repeat these results, and also to collect data concerning what any long term effects of this kind of treatment may be.

It seems that these researchers have attempted to treat depression and social media like any vaccine; use a strain of the sickness against itself to create an active acquired immunity. So while there are still concerns about obsessive social media compulsions and depression, by using the act of sharing and networking Panoply hopes to combat the feelings of isolation and despair with a sense of community and personal connection social media is meant to create.

So don’t delete your account just yet, give it another shot. Please post responsibly.

Depression is a very severe and sometimes subtle affliction. It can be manic and unpredictable, chronic and progressive, or sometimes it can almost seem comfortable. It is possible to escape the grips of depression, and it can be as simple as putting the right people in your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

4 Ways the Internet is Reprogramming Us

4 Ways the Internet is Reprogramming Us

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Thinking about it makes me wonder if we will one day truly be trapped in the matrix. Will we lose real reality in being brainwashed by gigabytes and used up like batteries for the ever advancing and expanding power of technology? I mean, I’d love to learn Kung-Fu in 5 seconds and dodge bullets, but… nah.

It is a reality that we are slowly but surely being reprogrammed by the internet. Not so hard to believe with it being such a constant presence in our lives. Its the legacy of the smartphones, all hail free wifi. I can honestly say in the past I have pondered on how the constant growth and innovation of iPhones and app interface might affect our genetic evolution or natural instincts, and I honestly can’t say it’s all that crazy to consider. Here are just 4 ways the internet is reprogramming us.

  1. The ‘F’ Affect

Thanks to the Internet, amazing social media and the exciting dialect of texting many believe we are writing our history as a post-literate society. The prominence of blogs and ‘articles’ plastered with more moving images or GIFS than words supports this idea, but one thing is definite; according to research conducted by both Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) and Mediative, this type of online reading content is altering the way we read.

Our eyes have been trained up to this point to read information by quickly skipping horizontally from one word to the next, then back to the start of the next line. Nowadays that’s too old school, and the internet has given us a new (but not much improved) method.

NNG refers to it as the “F-Shaped Pattern”, Mediative calls it the “Golden Triangle”, but either way it means when we are screen reading (i.e., reading on Internet-connected computer screens, smartphones, e-book readers, etc.), our eyes make a triangle or F-shape down the page:

So instead of regularly reading from this complete line to the next line

We have adapted to trying to skim corners of text

Where our minds typically associate with

The most important information,

Something like this

See?!

  1. Proteus Effect

Anyone who has ever played a video game where they have had to design an avatar knows how stressful it can be to try and create the perfect look. Subconsciously we actually relate and identify with our avatars a lot more than we realize, be it an elf warrior, a Sith Lord, or a tattooed car thief. I’ve pretended to be all three, but I’ve only actually ever been one for realzies.

These constructed identities we use for our online interactions are responsible for a phenomenon called the “Proteus Effect”, which is how we gradually begin to act like our online selves in our real-world lives.

There have been various studies to support this concept. When people who use an avatar that is physically attractive and empowered, it boosts their confidence and assertiveness, and the same with people who use less attractive or evil characters who become cruel and self-conscious in real life.

On the up-side, researchers feel virtual reality has the potential to help treat anxiety and mental illness.

  1. Online Disinhibition Effect

This one is a catch 22. On one side, you have the aspect where individuals can disassociate the online user names and avatars with actual people, making it easier to dehumanize others, and making it easier to be rude and disrespectful without social consequences. Anonymity can be a weapon.

This is known as the “Online Disinhibition Effect” which means that the protection from consequence makes us feel comfortable. It gives us the freedom to be awful individuals, or to be more effective when working with others apparently, so anonymity can also be a virtue.

It’s been found that people participating anonymously in online workshops demonstrate:

  • Enhanced problem-solving skills
  • A willingness to ask more questions

This is because there is no fear of asking stupid questions, giving stupid answers, or failing to complete a task because no one knows who you are.

Additionally, while some perceive anonymity as an excuse to be cruel to others, it’s also a great way of developing strong online communities who commit to generous and worthy causes, instead of pursuit of popularity. Anonymity creates less inclination to be loyal to individuals at the expense of the group, so everyone hones in on the idea of the group and advancing the group’s goals.

  1. Social Overdependence (and yet… Distancing Phenomena)

Through communication such as emails, texts, tweets and social media modern technology has made it easier than ever before for people to stay connected with each other. This is a beautiful thing, but it also often results in an overdependence and even obsession with social interaction that is both crippling our independence and isolating us from healthy communication.

FOMO is the “Fear of Missing Out”, which is described as a form of social anxiety that those who tend to feel unloved or without respect experience when they’re unable to interact socially online. FOMO can be so debilitating that not letting someone on Facebook to stay constantly connected can cause depression, and even cause them to question their own existence in extreme cases.

Social media has caused us to rely on it to the point we can literally withdrawal… at least mentally.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Social media has also made it possible to go pretty much our entire lives without ever having to physically interact with another human being… like ever!

Psychologists have even said we’re creating a “Distancing Phenomena”, which means by never communicating face-to-face, and over-relying on technology to both pacify and educate our children, we are diluting our ability to have real-life conversation.

And yet we wonder why social anxiety is spiking among teens, while simultaneously we overlook that they miss out on learning skills in facial recognition, body language and eye contact that are all essential part of how we as humans express emotions and intentions.

So while I clatter on this keyboard trying to keep your attention long enough to finish this article, adding to the cycle, I can’t help but think how many of you only read the corner of the page. Or how many of you will click ‘like’ or ‘share’ but won’t actually have a conversation with another human being about it (you should totally share it though, either way).

Who clicked the article just because they think the picture looked like them, and who only clicked it to stay relevant on the Facebook feed?

At least let’s acknowledge how society is being formatted for pocket-screens. Now how can we work to changing our compulsions, obsessions and even addictions before they change us for good?

Take the time to see where you unhealthy habits mold you, and which one of those compulsive actions controls you. The internet isn’t the only thing that reprograms us. Drugs and alcohol do too. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

The Tragedy of Selfies and Thinspiration

The Tragedy of Selfies and Thinspiration

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

The ‘Selfie’ is an expression of this generation in many ways, both humorous yet frightening. The Selfie itself is being considered in some circles as its own brand of addiction, and could be considered a personality disorder trait, or some kind of compulsive obsession. The same has been said about eating disorders, and I think no one would argue that both are obsessions can be tragic and devastating, so how strong is their connection?

Selfies may seem like a harmless example of how much our culture has changed, or it may seem like another symptom indicative of narcissism. But the obsession among young people in our modern society with capturing and posting self-portraits to social media is reportedly creating a very real rise in eating disorders according to some experts, and that is a truly terrifying truth.

Ask the Experts

Dr. Alex Yellowlees is a psychiatrist at The Priory Group, which is one of the United Kingdom’s biggest eating disorder treatment providers. Dr Yellowlees has practiced at the Priory Hospital Glasgow for the last 11 years, and says young people today are more vulnerable to the pressures to be thin due to a rising trend of people posting photos of their weight loss ( and often starvation) “progress” online through formats like Facebook or Instagram.

The Priory Group has seen a few indications of this growing concern with eating disorders in the past year, such as:

  • 15% increase in adult patients seeking treatment for eating disorders in the last year.
  • The number of middle-aged patients with eating disorders has nearly doubled in a year.

Dr. Yellowlees believes people’s growing instinct and urge to take and share photos ‘selfies’ is making a fairly large contribution to the increase. He stated,

“Some people will take repeated pictures of themselves at various stages of their illness, and send them to others. They want to keep a record of their illness and see for themselves, as it were, the progress they think they are making towards anorexia, but they will also transmit the images to other sufferers on occasions.”

So people taking photos of themselves through various stages of trying to look thinner through unhealthy means can progressively become part of the compulsive selfie obsession, and with theories about things like Facebook depression and addiction to social media, it seems like a perfect storm.

In addition to the mounting “selfie culture” that the world seems entangled in today, the evolution of technology has its part in feeding the rise in eating disorders. Things like smartphone apps which calculate calorie intake and encourage weight loss, or sites dedicated to “thinspiration” only magnify the harmful habits.

The Terror of “Thinspirtation”

These “thinspiration” sites are online forums where users encourage each other to starve and indulge in other unhealthy weight loss techniques to lose weight. These are often blogs that help serve as a visual and interactive platform for Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia (Pro-anorexia and Pro-Bulimia) communities of young tweens and teens. While work out tips and pictures of fit women are posted, so are the opposite: pictures of rib cages, clavicles and thigh gaps.  Even photos from the far end of the health spectrum – food dripping grease and obese people – are posted, with the goal being to instill ‘disgust’ in the viewer.

The users tend to post their current weight and goals, and use negative self-talk to inspire themselves and encourage each other’s behavior. Dr. Yellowlees states that many of these pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia sites are “definitely still active,” even with the combined efforts to ban them that have been implemented by social media sites and Internet providers. Yellowlee said,

“Eating disorders are like a form of ‘psychological malignancy’ and should be taken very seriously by society. This includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. The latter is more common as people get into adulthood and is linked to depression.”

During my research for this article, I investigated a few “Thinspiration” sites, and what I came across was troubling to say the least. Things like blogs about how to properly starve yourself, and comment segments where young people (particularly young women) pledged allegiance to the eating disorders they used to reach their desired weights.

One site even listed what it labeled as the “Thin Commandments” which included such appalling and tragic statements as “being thin is more important than being healthy” and “thou shalt not eat without feeling guilty.”

Visiting these sites, one of the typical center-pieces was a gallery of ‘selfies’ where young women in particular would post self-portraits dedicated to the progression and severity of their eating disorders. While I myself am a recovering ‘selfie-holic’, I’m troubled by how the ‘selfie culture’ seems to fuel this kind of self-deprecating and depressive behavior in so many young people.

While I do applaud people who set fitness goals and strive to make themselves feel better or possibly look different in healthy and positive ways, this is a sad and sickly side of that, in my opinion. Too many beautiful and amazing individuals obsess over their image by constantly sharing and comparing their appearance. It creates this vicious cycle of “take a picture– share it– hate it– hate yourself– hurt yourself– take more pictures (repeat)” and it is heartbreaking young people subject themselves to such harmful strategies. Self-worth determined by an unhealthy lie.

It’s like we as a society are reaching the point where the camera truly does take our souls, slowly but surely, and replaces it with vanity, doubt, envy or disgust until we lose the ability to love ourselves and in turn love others. How many people will starve themselves, just to feed into that selfie culture? How many today will pose for the camera, and tell the world to eat their heart out, so they don’t have to?

Disordered eating and compulsive behavioral issues can be as oppressive and life-threatening as drug addiction and alcoholism, and they can make those suffering just as isolated and helpless. But there are people out there committed to helping you recover from thes afflictions so you can see what a truly beautiful and amazing person you are. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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