Indiana, PA - Indiana County

For one day, public urged to disconnect

by on March 07, 2014 11:00 AM

“Are you aware of how the computer makes you feel?”

That’s how a presentation, given by Dr. Luis Almeida, associate professor of communications media at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, began on Thursday.

Studies have shown, Almeida said, that after extensive computer usage, whether that be on a laptop, tablet, smartphone or one of the other gadgets possible, people can feel withdrawn and even depressed.

The National Day of Unplugging, which takes place over a 24-hour period beginning this evening, sheds light on the overuse of technology and the importance of taking some time off from it. The event held at IUP on Thursday as a part of its Spring Fever 2014 program was to initiate awareness to the responsible use of computing, and to encourage students to sign the Unplug Pledge.

Almeida stated during his presentation that society has become numb to the effects that technology has on their lives. He’s come up with the Almeida Computer Behavior (Human Robot) Hypothesis, which says that “that the more a subject interacts with a computerized device, the more computer-like behaviors a subject acquires and displays over time without realizing it.”

He said that subjects suffering from what he called Human Robot Syndrome perceive the interruption of computer use as “annoying” and “insensitive to their machine-like demands.”

In essence, humans are trying to overwork themselves, to work just as hard a computer would, when the human brain is not made to withstand so much data.

When you try to talk to someone suffering from Human Robot Syndrome while they’re using a computer or device, he said, often the subject gets angry or ignores you completely.

And it’s effects like these that lead Almeida to believe that the National Day of Unplugging should be recognized more.

“I don’t care if you are a physician, college professor, administrator, construction worker, a cashier or a student,” Almeida said. “Humans can’t emulate the machine without experiencing significant backlashes from it.”

The effects of the heavy technology usage wreak havoc on every aspect of life, including work.

“Employees who are working 60 to 70 hours a week tend to get sick more often … which has an impact on productivity,” Almeida said. So he asks, “Are we mentally exhausting ourselves for the sake of technology?

“We’re no longer (working) 9 to 5, we’re 9 to forever.”

The National Day of Unplugging is a 24-hour period — from sundown tonight to sundown on Saturday — that stems from The Sabbath Manifesto, which, in religion, is the carving out of one day per week to unwind, relax, connect with loved ones and do activities that are not technology-based.

It challenges those who recognize that they are constantly “connected” to sign the Unplug Pledge and try something different for a change, like “have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child,” its website says.

“Why shouldn’t we rest, especially when management research has pointed out that overworked employees tend to be sick more often, cost companies more in health care costs and be less productive?” said Almeida.

“(This event) is important because it helps society to think inward about the potential side effects we often disregard about 24/7 technology use. Our students and community must understand the importance of resting.

“The national day of unplugging advances this idea precisely.”

Brandon Rosales, a freshman computer science major at the university, said that he “definitely plans on unplugging for the next day,” but he’ll still have to do his homework.

“Cognitive overload is a real problem,” Almeida said. “We need to be careful. If we keep that behavior up for years, sooner or later we’re going to have a severe burnout.”



Ellen Matis is the digital media coordinator and a staff writer at The Indiana Gazette. She is the person behind the Gazette's social media. A 2012 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Ellen has a degree in journalism and public relations. Follow her on Twitter, @EllenMatis, or email her at ematis@indianagazette.net.
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