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Why the iPad is the most addictive gadget yet

Apple iPadMy son was watching TV on my Apple iPad the other day. He was sitting in front of our big-screen HDTV, which was turned off. His big-screen laptop was nearby - also turned off. It occurred to me: is the iPad addictive?

Tech reporter Mike Wendland might have the answer when he said of the Apple iPad: "This thing is more addicting than a slot machine." US TV personality Jim Cramer told his audience that Apple stock was a good investment because the "Apple iPad is as addictive as Oxycontin."

Two days before the iPad shipped, an episode of the TV series 'Modern Family' ended with one of the characters gazing at his iPad and whispering, "I love you."

Something is going on here, and it's not natural.

Is iPad the new 'Crackberry'?

Other technology products are addictive. BlackBerry devices have been called 'Crackberries' for years, and there are rehab sites. Parents in China, South Korea and even the US send their kids to internet or gaming addiction camps or rehab. Facebook and social networking have been labelled as addictive activities by some psychologists.

The closest thing to the iPad is, of course, the iPhone. Can people become hooked on the iPhone?

A new Stanford University survey found that 44 percent of students claim iPhone addiction. Only 6 percent of iPhone users said they had no addiction to the device at all.

The survey also found that iPhone addiction was affecting relationships. Students reported in some cases that friends and family felt abandoned or neglected because of the excessive attention paid to iPhones.

The anthropology professor who managed the survey, Tanya Luhrmann, told the San Jose Mercury News newspaper: "One of the most striking things we saw in the interviews was just how identified people were with their iPhone.

"It was not so much with the object itself, but it had so much personal information that it became a kind of extension of the mind and a means to have a social life. It just kind of captured part of their identity."

Almost a quarter of students surveyed said they considered the iPhone an extension of their body or brain.

If the iPhone is that addictive, how strung out are people going to be on the iPad?

What makes technology addictive?

I believe technology products and services can provide seven 'drugs' that engender compulsive use:

Instant gratification. When any product gives us what we're looking for instantly, we tend to crave it more than things we have to wait for. Fast food is more addictive than slow food, for example. Instant gratification puts the crack in Crackberry.

You see the addicts on planes. The second wheels touch tarmac, the gadget crackheads whip out their phones and are typing away immediately. It's not just communication, but real-time communication with an instant-on device that makes it so compelling.

Social interaction. Media that connect us to friends, family and colleagues can become addictive compulsions. Facebook is the best example. But Twitter, FriendFeed, Buzz and other social sites can also be addictive. Humans are hard-wired for social interaction. Social networking services jack directly into that wiring.

Response to input. Video games are one of the most addictive micro-processor based activities. What is it about games that draw us to them? I think it's the feeling of power that comes from commanding a sensory-blasting response from the game.

First, the game creates a world that we buy into, to a certain extent; we accept it as a kind of alternative reality. Then we gain some skills required to survive or succeed or interact with that reality. It's like real life, but with massive control and new abilities and freedoms. It's not the game we're addicted to, but the rush of adrenalin and endorphins that comes from experiencing power, control and directing the sensory stimulation.

Next page: Escapism, identity and why the iPad is the most addictive gadget yet >>

See also:

Web users at risk of social networking addiction

Uni finds link between depression and net addiction

Apple iPad review

Apple iPad news spotlight

Apple news

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