Nick Carr, talking about our collective move to Internet immersion, makes some excellent points about the way we talk about technological change, the first of them similar to a point I made recently about how the ways we talk about the real and potential social impacts of new technologies allow us to distance ourselves from thinking they apply to us:
The problem with the addiction metaphor [to describe Internet use] … is that it presents the normal as abnormal and hence makes it easy for us to distance ourselves from our own behavior and its consequences. By dismissing talk of “Internet addiction” as rhetorical overkill, which it is, we also avoid undertaking an honest examination of how deeply our media devices have been woven into our lives and how they are shaping those lives in far-reaching ways, for better and for worse….The addiction metaphor also distorts the nature of technological change by suggesting that our use of a technology stems from a purely personal choice — like the choice to smoke or to drink. An inability to control that choice becomes, in this view, simply a personal failing. But while it’s true that, in the end, we’re all responsible for how we spend our time, it’s an oversimplification to argue that we’re free “to choose” whether and how we use computers and cell phones, as if social norms, job expectations, familial responsibilities, and other external pressures had nothing to do with it. The deeper a technology is woven into the patterns of everyday life, the less choice we have about whether and how we use that technology.