Solana Beach resident addresses growing problem in new book ‘iDisorder’

By Kathy Day

Larry Rosen admits he’s a geek — and that he’s obsessed with technology. So, he says, he’s a perfect person to write a book about how technology affects our daily lives.

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Larry Rosen (Photo: Kathy Day)

His latest, “iDisorder,” offer tips on how to keep using those iPads, smart phones, computers and any of the other latest “toys” without letting them take over your life.

The Solana Beach resident has been teaching at Cal State Dominguez Hills for 37 years. He currently teaches the Global Impact of Technology, a psychology class, two days a week to classes of 350 to 500 students in the campus theater and wouldn’t change the commute or the size of his classes for anything, he said.

“I will never retire. I love teaching … I can clip on a microphone and be a showman.”

He majored in math at UCLA but decided two and a half years in that he didn’t want to be a math major. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology at UCSD.

It’s easy to picture him in front of his students, an easygoing style and sense of humor. Wearing his Jon Stewart T-shirt, he says one of his goals is to get on the “Daily Show” — really, he says. Perhaps to make a point that the TV star might pick up on, he adds, “There’s a ‘Daily Show’ effect — teenagers these days are getting their news from Jon Stewart.”

He’s studied that effect, and lots of others. Including the phenomenon he calls iDisorder: “Changes to your brain’s ability to process information and your ability to relate to the world due to your daily use of media and technology resulting in signs and symptoms of psychological disorders — such as stress, sleeplessness, and a compulsive need to check in with all of your technology.”

He started the book with a scene in a movie theater: At the last second everyone turns “off” their cell phones. Then, in the middle, you see people surreptitiously looking to see what they’ve missed. At the end, everyone turns their phones back on.

Kind of like when the plane lands on the runway, he added.

As he sat in the living room of the blufftop condominium he shares with his girlfriend, Vicki, and his cat, Ashley, he furtively glanced at his iPhone from time to time, resisting the urge to check his latest updates.

Later, as the conversation shifted gears, he looked and found only 18 emails in the 45 or so minutes that had passed.

And he laughed when talking about forgetting which pocket his phone was in — and about people who accidently leave for work without them.

“Research shows most people will drive home to get it,” he said. “It’s an incredible compulsion.”

He calls the newest book an update of his first, “TechnoStress: Coping with Technology @Work @Home @Play.” In between, he’s written a book for teachers to help them understand how the iGeneration learns and one for parents to help them grasp how their children use the Internet. He also writes for The National Psychologist and blogs for Psychology Today.

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