Citizen debate: questioning digital addiction

The subject united four speakers. Erwann Gaucher, a consultant from the digital department of FTV intervened by videoconference from France, with a 40°C difference in temperature! He pointed out the increasing speed of the system evolution, the risks of addiction growing from the fact that we find ourselves in a continuous flow of exchanges. Marie-Françoise Brugiroux, a doctor and head of the « alcohol and drug addiction » centre for the department of health, gave a clear and thorough presentation about the questions surrounding dependence in general and in particular addiction to digital. Marcel Desvergne, chairman of Aquitaine Europe Communication and a loyal participant of digital encounters has for his part highlighted the expansion of the phenomena towards senior citizens and also the demands imposed by the world of work. Bernard Benhamou, delegate for Internet use, completed the preceding presentations by highlighting the role of public authorities to suppress risks. In particular he highlighted the risks of intrusion into private lives for commercial purposes. The solution is not to refuse the tool, he indicated, but to provide shrewder management.

It is clear that digital plays a large role in our private lives which allows us to maintain a continuous relationship with members of our family or our friends. However, even in our professional life, there is ‘professional pressure to connect’ according to Erwan Gaucher like for example the permanent use of email.

Parents have been the first to worry, perhaps with exaggeration, about the phenomena of addiction to digital. The internet, social networks and online games monopolize young people more and more who seem more at ease in this virtual life than in direct confrontation with reality.  Specialists propose a scale of 0 to 5, from a normal use of digital (0), to severe addiction (5), where vital is situated at this last level.

In the world of work, there may be addiction owing to the behaviour of employees who compulsively browse the Internet and cannot stop checking their messages. Company pressure is prevalent with an ever increasing demand for the reactivity of its employees. An anecdote is given to illustrate these phenomena. Following the intervention of trade unions, a certain company abandoned sending messages demanding a response to its executives the night of Christmas and New Year 2011…

New jobs and new opportunities can be created from this evolution, like any major transformation. To deal with confirmed addiction, the therapists must adapt, find new approaches, like for example joining in the game with the teens. A line of tourism without digital is appearing and could develop in French Polynesia on the theme: « Truly rest by disconnecting! »

‘A requirement for the right not be connected is coming to the fore’ indicated the Internet use delegate. Never forget that on the Internet, when you do not pay for the service, you are the product. It is logical that web enterprises will earn money. Even little ones are their potential targets. Therefore we, through our decision makers, must establish rules to preserve the values and the principles to which we are attached. Three classical and efficient mechanisms must be actioned: educational support, legal framework and technical measures.

Several key phrases should be retained from this lively debate. The aim is not to stop but to be happy. It is all a question of balance. Respiration is necessary. But all this must be taught to young people and the elderly alike that is why education about digital must be developed.

A collective awareness of the issues, whilst objectively recognising all the advantages of digital, should allow us to draw up a collective and pertinent response to its dangers.