Nostalgia for the 1960s is a full-time occupation for many people, some of whom weren't even born until well after that auspicious decade...

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Nostalgia for the 1960s is a full-time occupation for many people, some of whom weren’t even born until well after that auspicious decade was a hazy memory.


That wondrous epoch — when people had a social conscience and pushed for constructive change. When the music mattered, and no album would find release if it didn’t have something new to say. When drugs were harmless recreation instead of dangerous poison, and you could inhale with no worry about what office you might seek in the future.


It is a problem faced by many people who won’t admit to middle age. They miss the good old days, when they could blow a joint before class or watch TV with a buzz on. Instead, they are stuck in a dead-end job with a boring spouse and an unchallenging life that rises and falls on the whim of their e-mail correspondents.


But there is good news for these folks, and many others who wish to procure a cheap high. It turns out that the drive that pushed people toward pot in the 1960s is similar to what pulls people toward e-mail today. Furthermore, people who are so addicted — they constantly check e-mail and text messages through the day, into the evenings and on weekends — can suffer a drop of 10 points in their IQ.


This is the result of a survey commissioned by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by researchers at the University of London Institute of Psychiatry, who are quick to note this drop is more than twice the four-point decrease suffered by chronic pot smokers.


Someone paid actual doctors to come up with this? What were they smoking? There is a difference between the two compounds. Pot smokers are (I’m told) a mellow bunch who rarely get upset about anything, whose idea of excitement is a “Star Wars” supernova or a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo.


E-mail addicts, whom HP has dubbed “Infomaniacs,” are a tense bunch who are unsure about how to deal with their information overload and spend their lives running to the computer at short intervals to see who has written them in the last five minutes.


To help combat Infomania, H-P has published a six-page downloadable document beginning with diagnostic questions: “Do you check for messages within a minute of leaving a meeting?” “Have you ever checked for messages whilst on holiday?”).


That’s followed by a series of common-sense recommendations: Use descriptive headers. Keep messages short.


If you haven’t figured that out by now, you probably have been smoking something that lowers the IQ a lot more than just 10 points.


Yes, I am an infomaniac. I couldn’t write a column about e-mail for six years without an intimate connection with the technology. But this “addiction” is purely psychological. There is none of the real grip of a chemical compound or a controlled substance. All this assertion did was to create a few headlines and find a way to get HP’s name in print.


Well, it worked. But next time I hear about a similar story I’ll just say no.


If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at cbermant@seattletimes.com. Type Inbox in the subject field.


More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists