Le chat, animal si pratique, mais qui s’ennuie “à dormir” dans nos maisons [fr]

[en] I have followed two half-day courses on cat behaviour so far, and it has completely changed the way I see (my) cats. I thought I knew a lot about them, but I still have a lot to learn! The sad takeaway from these courses is realising how bored most of our cats are, particularly indoor cats. An unhappy cat will just stay silent and quiet, and sleep to pass the time. It's that bad. They do not let us know something is wrong except by sleeping. And we all expect our cats to sleep... a lot.

There is a lot we can do, as humans, to enrich their environment. But it takes work. And cats do not "know" how to use the devices we will present them. We need to teach them... and we usually do not know how to teach a cat something.

If you're interested in the topic, I recommend you listen to this episode of Fresh Air. If you struggle through my French blog post and have questions, I'm happy to answer them in the comments. I'm also planning a Facebook Live on the topic, and toying with the idea of doing one in English. Would you be interested in following it?

Nos chats s’ennuient bien plus que ce qu’on pense. Très franchement, je n’avais aucune idée. Ces derniers mois, ma façon de regarder les chats (et les miens) a énormément évolué.

img_8499

J’ai en effet suivi deux demi-journées de cours sur le comportement félin récemment. Claire y était également et a écrit de jolis comptes-rendus: premier cours, deuxième cours. Ma première visite chez le comportementaliste m’avait déjà ouvert grand les yeux sur les limites de ma compréhension de nos petits fauves d’appartement. Oui je sais, si vous me connaissez il y a des chances que vous me considériez “experte en chats” – eh bien laissez-moi vous dire que j’ai beaucoup appris durant ces deux cours. (Il y en a encore deux!)

J’ai tellement à dire que je ne sais pas trop par où commencer. Il y a des tas de trucs pratiques, des infos sur certains comportements que je ne savais pas décoder, etc. Mais ce qui m’a le plus touché (on peut dire ça) c’est cette question de l’ennui, de réaliser à quel point la maltraitance par ignorance et manque d’information est répandue (voire systémique) chez le chat.

Ça peut choquer, d’entendre ça. Personne ne considère qu’il ou elle maltraite son chat. On les aime, on en prend soin. On veut leur donner une bonne vie. Et malgré tout ça, il est possible qu’on les maltraite sans le savoir.

La clé la plus importante à intégrer concernant le chat est que c’est un animal qui ne manifeste pas sa souffrance.

Je le savais déjà pour la souffrance physique: un chat âgé qui a de l’arthrose, et donc a mal, ne va pas se plaindre. Il va simplement adapter son activité pour ne pas avoir mal. Il va bouger moins. Dormir plus. Arrêter de sauter sur la table. Si votre chat a huit ans ou plus, il y a de fortes chances qu’il ait déjà de l’arthrose. Comment on sait ça? On prend toute une collection de chats d’un certain âge. On leur donne des anti-inflammatoires pendant quelque temps. Et hop, ils dorment moins, sortent plus, sautent sur la table, jouent à nouveau!

Ils ont mal mais ils ne se plaignent pas, ne montrent rien.

Ce qui est vrai pour la douleur physique l’est aussi pour la douleur psychique. Un chat qui va mal va s’inhiber, bien avant de détruire l’appartement en notre absence.

Il faut comprendre que c’est une des caractéristiques du chat qui le rendent si “pratique” comme animal de compagnie. Il ne nous emmerde pas… Le problème c’est qu’on n’en a pas conscience. On pense que si notre chat ne pose pas de “problèmes” c’est que tout va bien. Mais ce n’est pas vrai. Un chat qui ne nous emmerde pas n’est pas nécessairement un chat qui va bien.

Un exemple: l’ennui. Si on compare les activités “naturelles” du chat à celles du chat “en appartement”, on se rend compte que l’environnement qu’on lui propose n’est absolument pas adapté à ses besoins.

Un chat peut chasser jusqu’à 11 heures par jour. S’il est actif, il ne dort pas 16 heures par jour, mais plutôt une dizaine d’heures. Le chat est un animal territorial, et son domaine vital “naturel” est bien bien plus grand que nos appartements. On le prive de territoire, on le prive de chasse. Se nourrir prend 5 minutes à la gamelle. S’il a de la chance ses maîtres jouent avec lui un peu en rentrant du travail, et il s’installe sur leurs genoux devant le téléjournal. Seul la journée, seul la nuit quand on dort (à plus forte raison si la chambre à coucher lui est interdite), le chat s’ennuie. Il se résigne, et dort par dépit. La grande majorité des chats en Suisse vivent dans des cages dorées.

Ces idées nous heurtent! On ne veut pas faire souffrir nos chats. Ils ne semblent pas demander quoi que ce soit de plus. Quand on essaie de les intéresser à un jouet, ça ne prend pas. Ils sont “paresseux” et préfèrent dormir. Après deux ou trois tentatives on se dit que ce n’est pas leur truc, alors on laisse tomber – ils ne se plaignent pas, ça doit pas être si grave.

Justement. Il faut enregistrer fermement cette information: le chat malheureux ne se plaint pas. Il ne le manifeste pas – si ce n’est en dormant. 

Que faire? Une fois cette prise de conscience faite, par où commencer? C’est là qu’il y a des tonnes d’articles à écrire. Mais quelques principes, déjà.

Se débarrasser des gamelles, tout d’abord. Mettre en place des systèmes, achetés ou bricolés, pour que le chat doive “travailler” pour obtenir sa nourriture. Cela ne remplacera pas le temps de chasse, mais ce sera toujours plus que les 5 minutes nécessaires à descendre le contenu de l’assiette. Quoi, comment, où? Il y a pas mal d’idées déjà dans l’article de Claire, et je pense développer ce sujet à l’avenir.

Quintus et Tounsi avec des nouveaux jouets (je mettrai la vidéo sur YouTube quand je suis de retour en plaine avec du wifi)

Partir du principe que le chat ne “sait” pas faire l’activité qu’on lui propose. Que ce soit du jeu, de la chasse, un moyen différent de trouver sa nourriture: on doit lui apprendre. Et l’apprentissage, c’est une activité. On a tendance à se limiter à ce que le chat fait spontanément ou pige tout de suite, et c’est une grave erreur. Les chats sont intelligents et capables d’apprendre beaucoup de choses, mais pour cela nous devons tout d’abord nous apprendre à enseigner aux chats. On n’a pas la science infuse non plus. (Aussi plein de choses à écrire là-dessus, mon vieil article sur le clicker training vous donnera déjà une idée de base. Mais c’est pas suffisant, à l’époque où je l’ai écrit il y avait des tas de choses que je n’avais pas comprises, et je crois qu’il y en a encore qui m’échappent.)

Faire sortir son chat. C’est con hein, mais un chat qui sort, il va automatiquement avoir une vie bien plus remplie d’activités qu’un chat dont le monde se résume au canapé, au lit, et à l’arbre à chats. Si vous avez trop peur, je me dis maintenant que le harnais, c’est déjà mieux que rien (mais ça vous oblige à être là).

Mais même un chat qui sort peut s’ennuyer. Je le vois avec Tounsi et Quintus, qui sont clairement des chats “dedans d’abord, dehors un peu”. Je sortais déjà un peu Quintus pour qu’il se dégourdisse les pattes (maintenant que je sais qu’il est presque aveugle, je comprends mieux pourquoi il ne quittait le devant de l’immeuble qu’en ma compagnie). Je le fais maintenant d’autant plus que je comprends que c’est une façon de le garder actif. Tounsi aussi. Au chalet, où ils sont moins familiers avec le territoire, je les encourage activement. Je sors avec eux, je les appelle, j’amène des croquettes, même. Je prends mon téléphone ou ma kindle et je traine au jardin avec eux. Dehors, ils ne font pas la sieste: ils regardent, explorent, chassent même un peu. Si je me contentais de leur ouvrir la porte, je resterais à la conclusion que “ils ne veulent pas vraiment sortir”. Il ne faut pas s’arrêter à ce que le chat semble vouloir.

Combien d’activité par jour? Il y a des années, j’avais vu quelque part 45 minutes par jour pour un chat d’appartement. Je n’ai jamais retrouvé la source. Dans le deuxième cours, le comportementaliste nous propose de viser un minimum de 4 heures par jour d’activités: chasse, alimentation, jeux, interactions. C’est énorme! Cela veut dire qu’il faut mettre en place un contexte où une partie des activités ne dépend pas de notre présence.

On pense souvent qu’avoir deux chats “règle le problème” du chat enfermé tout seul à la maison toute la journée. Ce n’est malheureusement pas vrai. Déjà, il faut que les chats s’entendent (ce n’est pas toujours le cas; imaginez, être enfermé durant des années avec comme compagnon principal quelqu’un que vous n’aimez pas). Mais même s’ils s’entendent, ils vont simplement s’ennuyer ensemble si on ne leur propose pas d’activités. On nous a montré cette vidéo durant le deuxième cours, et j’avoue que ça m’a vraiment fait mal au coeur.

Saisir les opportunités. Le chat est un sprinteur, il lui faut donc des activités très courtes. Une fois qu’on se rend compte que des petites choses qui peuvent nous paraître insignifiantes sont importantes pour son équilibre, il y a en fait plein de petites choses qu’on peut faire.

En particulier, quand mes chats dorment depuis un moment, je vais aller dans la chambre et bouger un peu. Pas les réveiller toutes les cinq minutes, s’entend, mais rendre leur environnement moins statique. Lancer un truc par terre, ça va attirer leur attention. Même s’ils ne se jettent pas dessus, s’ils le regardent, ou se déplacent, c’est déjà ça. Quand je rentre de courses, Tounsi a toujours le nez dans tout. Je ne le chasse pas ni le gronde, son intérêt pour ces choses nouvelles dans son environnement est tout à fait sain. Je m’assure juste (gentiment) qu’il ne parte pas avec le fromage ou le jambon! Je vais faire des caresses à Quintus pendant sa sieste, et je fais frétiller la ficelle qu’il aime bien sur le lit devant lui. Des fois il l’ignore, des fois il joue un peu. Une minute, c’est déjà ça! Il faut procéder par petites touches, plein plein de petites activités courtes, au lieu d’une grande séance de jeu dont ils se fatigueront trop vite. C’est comme avec la nourriture: plein de petits repas au fil de la journée. Toute occasion est bonne pour leur lancer une boulette de papier ou une croquette, ou laisser trainer un sac ou un emballage le temps qu’ils l’explorent.

J’ai à peine gratté la surface de tout ce que j’ai à écrire suivant ces deux cours, mais cet article commence à être bien assez long. Je réponds volontiers à vos questions dans les commentaires. Je me tâte d’ailleurs de faire un (ou plusieurs?) Facebook Live, peut-être déjà simplement pour discuter plus avant des idées que j’introduis ici. (Je vous tiens au courant, mais ça se dessine pour vendredi 15h ou 21h, ou samedi 10h.)

Mise à jour: j’ai fait le fameux Facebook Live que vous pouvez donc désormais visionner!

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Invisibilia: A Podcast About the Hidden Forces That Shape our Behaviour [en]

[fr] Un super podcast à découvrir: Invisibilia. Ça parle des forces invisibles qui conditionnent le comportement humain. Et c'est super bien fait. Quelques histoires pour démarrer: l'homme aveugle (sans yeux) qui voit par écholocalisation et fait du vélo, la femme qui ressent physiquement ce qui arrive à ceux autour d'elle (un cas extrême de "synesthésie miroir"), le rapport entre nos pensées et qui nous sommes (sommes-nous nos pensées? quelle importance leur accorder?), et j'en passe.

I thought I’d written a post somewhere introducing the podcasts I listen to regularly. I don’t watch TV, but I do listen to a bunch of podcasts religiously: Radiolab, On The Media, The Savage Lovecast, and The Moth. Serial was great, too.

Through Radiolab, I recently discovered the new show Invisibilia. It’s actually co-hosted by one of Radiolab’s former producers, and there is clearly in the choice of subject matter a kinship with what drew me to Radiolab in the first place all these years ago.

Invisibilia is about the stuff that we can’t see and which shapes human behaviour. In the pilot season, you’ll find stories about a blind man who can actually see by using echolocation, a woman who cannot feel fear, and Paige, tragically flipping through gender categories. And that’s just the beginning. Subscribe to the podcast and start listening.

Here’s a bunch of random takeaways for me after listening to the first episodes:

  • the three “stages” in the history of our thoughts: 1) all thoughts are meaningful (Freud), 2) some thoughts are BS and we can think ourselves out of them (CBT), 3) our thoughts don’t deserve that much attention (mindfulness)
  • how important categories are in helping us make sense of the world (I kind of knew that); reminded me of India again and the utter confusion of the first weeks where all my European categories broke down, and I didn’t have any Indian ones yet to work with
  • how gently facing one’s fears works much better in getting rid of them than obsessing about them and trying to avoid their object
  • how important our expectations of what people can do are in determining what they actually are going to be capable of doing (“blind people can’t do that“)
  • venting when angry, whilst therapeutic in the moment, actually makes us more angry and aggressive in the long run

Sound interesting? Check out the list of the previous episodes. If you start listening, let me know!

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Adopting a New Cat: 10 Tips for Newbies [en]

[fr] Quelques conseils et tuyaux pour les personnes peu familières avec les chats.

Not everybody is familiar with cats. Here are some tips and advice for those of you who might find themselves a little at loss with their first adopted cat (or first “real” cat you have the full responsibility of).

Cats (2013 11) -- Mon petit panier de légumes

1. Cat psychology

The main thing to understand about cats is that they are naturally shy animals. They like sheltered places (under then bed) rather than big empty spaces (in the middle of the living room).

If your cat is spooked, leave it alone. It will end up exploring and coming to you, even though it might take weeks. The worst thing you can do is chase after a spooked cat to try and make friends with it. It’s said that cats like those who don’t like them, and there is some truth in there: people who don’t like cats leave them alone.

Cats don’t either like loud noises or brusque movements. To make yourself cat-friendly, avoid speaking too loudly and making scary noises. Move gently. (This is why cats often have trouble with children, who traditionally make a lot of noise and tear about the place ;-))

2. Cat language

Some cats are talkative and meow, others don’t. Meowing is a way of communicating with humans, so if a cat is meowing, chances are it wants something. Usually one of:

  • food
  • water
  • litter
  • to be let out of where they are
  • reassurance (which might not necessarily mean being scooped up and carried, but maybe just visual contact and hearing your voice)

Sushi en septembre 2

Cat body-language is unlike the dog’s: tail flapping is usually sign of annoyance or discontent (again, some cats have more wavy tails than others and might whip their tail around even when purring — but generally less tail movement = better). Ears backwards is fear. Big dilated pupils too. (Or anger.) Purring is usually good, growling and hissing isn’t.

3. How a cat explores

Most cats will explore only at the speed they’re comfortable. They might spend a lot of time exploring with their eyes/ears/nose first before coming out of their hidey-place. They’ll explore a little and then retreat to safety.

Cuisery 24

You and other humans are part of the territory to explore. If you’re away during the day, be sure the cat is making good use of that time to explore — or sleep!

4. Food, drink, and litter

At the beginning make sure that food, drink, and litter are close at hand for the cat. You don’t want it to go days without food because it’s scared (cats actually don’t do well without food for anything more than 24 hours). If the cat is not eating try and tempt him with something specially tasty.

Keep the litter tray as far as possible from the food and water. The cat might take a while to use it (they’re champions at “holding it in”, specially the “big business”, for what might be days). If you’re worried about time passing by and not enough going in or out of the cat, call a vet for advice with the specifics, they’ll be able to tell you if the cat needs medical attention or just a bit more time.

Most cats don’t like their water near their food. More than one water bowl is a good idea (I spread them around the flat). Avoid plastic for food/water bowls as many cats are allergic and develop acne on their chins.

Keep the litter tray very clean (remove whatever the cat does in it as soon as you see it). Open litter trays are more appreciated than covered ones. A few drops of bleach in the litter will encourage the cat to use it. (Remember, what smells nice to you doesn’t smell nice to the cat, so go gently on those litter deodorants or perfumed litter.)

5. Petting and carrying your cat

Cats usually like to be petted once they’re comfortable (and it can reassure them). Not all cats like to be carried. Scratching under the chin, on the head, stroking on the shoulders is usually safe. Scratching the lower back can be either much appreciated or set the cat off. Bellies are best avoided until you know for sure the cat wants it (rolling and showing you its belly does not always imply it wants you to touch it).

When you carry a cat, make sure you support its behind with one hand. Cats have their habits, so maybe your cat has been used to being carried a certain way. Try and see what your cat does when you pick it up and listen to its body-language, it might give you hints.

If your cat hits you or bites you when you pet it, it might mean

  • that it’s not comfortable enough with you yet (specially if it’s at the beginning and it’s still scared)
  • that it’s “over-stimulated” — there is a fine line between pleasant contact and contact that feels like an agression. In that case, learn to stop petting before it becomes unpleasant for the cat. Watch out for flicking tail, ears backwards, dilated pupils. With time (months/years) you will learn to know when to stop, and the cat will gently stretch out its comfort zone.

Max et Lilly à Saint-Prex -- Max

6. Approaching your cat

If your cat is shy, and even if it isn’t, avoid standing full height when you first approach it. Also avoid looking at it directly (staring is an agressive attitude). Look at the cat, look away, look at the cat, blink, look away, etc. Gently stretch an arm forward as far as you can and point your index finger at cat-height in direction of your cat — as if your finger was another cat’s nose.

Cats greet each other by touching noses, and you can mimic that with a finger. Approach your cat with your finger, very gently, and let it do the last bit (don’t ram your finger in its nose, leave your finger a few centimetres away and let your cat do the last bit). If your cat is scared and retreats, retreat too and try again later. Speak gently/softly when you do this.

Once the cat has touched your finger it will probably retreat a bit, or come and rub its head against your hand. Let it do it a bit, and then see if you can pet it a bit with a finger or scratch head or cheeks!

7. Enrichment: toys, outdoors, cat tree

Cats are hunters. They sleep a lot (upto 16 hours a day, mostly when you’re not around). If your cat is an indoor cat you are going to have to play with it every day. Here’s an article (in French) about how to care properly for an indoor cat. Expensive toys are not necessary (they bring more pleasure to you than the cat, so spend wisely). A piece of string or a rolled ball of paper you can throw are fine. Corks on a string and ping-pong balls are great. Fishing-rod style toys are good as they really help you be active with your cat. Clicker training is also something you might consider, as it’s a nice cat-human activity, and it can do wonders in getting a shy/less-sociable cat to bond with you.

An indoor cat absolutely needs a scratching post. It should be really sturdy and tall enough for the cat to stretch out completely when scratching (that can be over 1m high for a big cat!)

If your cat is going outdoors, wait at least 3 weeks to a month before letting it out. More if the cat is still not comfortable with you, doesn’t come when called, or is not quite at ease indoors. Here is an article (in French) that explains how I proceed for letting my cats outdoors.

A cat is going to be happier in a cluttered environment than in a place full of open spaces. It doesn’t mean you need to live in a mess, but particularly at the beginning if you can leave paper bags and cardboard boxes lying around, or a chair in the hallway, etc., it will make it easier on the cat (you’re creating hiding-places). It’s also important that the cat has somewhere to look outside. They’ll spend a lot of time “virtually hunting” just by observing the outside world.

Max et Lilly à Saint-Prex -- Attentive

You can create more “space” for your cat inside by thinking in 3D: where can the cat climb? This adds surface to its territory.

And indoor cat should have access to “cat grass” (usually wheat). You can get it in supermarkets or pet stores depending on your area or plant it yourself. They use it to purge themselves of the fur they ingest while grooming.

8. Education

The golden rule of education is: be firm and consistent. Imitate a mother cat with her kittens: if you decide your cat is not allowed on the kitchen table, a sharp “no!” and swift removal of the cat should work (just pick it up and put it on the floor, or if it’s skittish enough, chase it off with your hand — or it might just jump off as you approach). I usually continue saying “no!” in a stern tone until the cat is back in “permitted” territory. (Be reasonable though: a cat needs to be allowed on the furniture in general!)

It’s usually unnecessary (just sayin’!) to hit your cat. If you have a specially stubborn cat like my Tounsi you might have to swat it on the top of the head with two fingers (imitate a cat paw coming down sharply) but use this with care and circumspection.

What works better for cats who insist on getting into trouble (destroying your houseplants for example) is to run/walk fast towards them, yell or make a huge hissing sound when you get near (like an angry cat), and when they move, chase them away by running after them. This is really imitating what another cat would do.

This technique can also be used for a cat who does not know play limits and bites or scratches you. Stop interacting immediately, hiss and chase the cat away. Then ignore it.

Clicker training can also be a very useful tool for education. (Watch videos on YouTube if you don’t know what it can do.) It can help replace unwanted behaviours by wanted behaviours. Not to mention it can help with useful things like getting a cat into a carrier or having it let you examine its paws.

Quintus has no shame, comfort before everything 1

9. Safety

Open windows and unsecured balconies. Cats do fall from windows and balconies and injure themselves (the cat never getting hurt by a fall is a myth). Tilt open windows are dangerous for cats as they might try and get out through them and get caught in the crack (and die).

Some plants are toxic to cats (famously, lilies — Google will serve you umpteen lists). Antifreeze is very attractive to them, and deadly.

Be careful with power cords (risk of electric shock) and electric/ceramic cookers (burns). Don’t let them swallow string or ribbons (risk of intestinal occlusion).

Chocolate is toxic to cats. So are tomatoes and a whole lot of other human food that doesn’t agree with them well. Cats don’t digest milk, it gives them diarrhoea. They are strict carnivores and should normally not eat anything besides high-quality cat food. (Ask your vet for advice. Supermarket cat-food is usually suboptimal but some brands are good.)

Permethrin, which is found in some insecticides (including dog anti-flea products) is deadly for cats.

A cat which has not eaten for 24 hours is a medical emergency (risk of hepatic lipidosis).

10. Vet and carrier box

If you can, make sure you can get your cat into the carrier box before you need it (but don’t over-spook an already spooked cat by doing it unnecessarily). Leave the carrier outside for a few days instead of taking it out of wherever it is just when you use it. Lure the cat inside with treats. Let it come back out. Put a treat in the back of the carrier, close the door, give a treat, open the door again to let it out. With a bit of practice chances are you’ll have a cat that runs into its carrier to get a treat.

Ask your cat friends for a vet recommendation before you need one. If your cat seems to be settling ok, it can be a good thing to take it to the vet for an initial check-up. Like that the vet gets to meet the cat when it’s in good health and doesn’t need to be tortured too much 😉

Safran aime mon jardin palette 3

Eye issues shouldn’t wait before seeing a vet. Cats are fragile with colds, so a coughing, sneezing, or sniffling cat should see a vet quickly. Cats hide pain very well, so often the first sign you will notice of a cat not being well is that it’s more quiet, doesn’t want to play, isn’t eating much — or simply doesn’t follow its usual habits. If you notice such changes in behaviour, call your vet for advice and probably a check-up. It’s better to catch something minor early than wait too long and end up with a dead cat (sorry to be dramatic but these things happen).

Have fun with your cat!

There, I think I’ve covered the essentials. If you have any questions, use the comments. And have fun with your new cat 🙂

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Technological Overload or Internet Addiction? [en]

[fr] Les vidéos du fameux débat sur la surcharge technologique à LIFT'07 est en ligne. Du coup, l'occasion de rappeler mes deux billets sur le sujet, et de rajouter quelques pensées suite à ma participation à la table ronde sur les cyberaddictions à Genève, entre autres sur la confusion entre dépendance et addiction parmi le grand public, et le fait qu'on perçoit souvent l'objet de l'addiction comme étant le problème (et donc à supprimer) et non le comportement addictif. Mes notes sont à disposition mais elles sont très rudimentaires.

For those of you who enjoyed my [Technological Overload Panel](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/09/technological-overload-panel/) and [Addicted to Technology](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/12/addicted-to-technology/) posts, the (http://www.liftconference.com/videos/view/single/8) is now online.

Since I wrote them, I participated in a panel discussion about cyberaddictions (that’s what they’re called in French) in Geneva. It was very interesting, and I learnt a few things. The most important one is the difference between “addiction” and “dépendance” in French. “Dépendance” is physical. The cure to it is quitting whatever substance we are dependant to. Addiction, however, lies in the realm of our relationship to something. It has to do with *how we use a substance/tool*, what role it plays in our life and overall psychological balance. And it also has a component of **automation** to it. You don’t *think* before lighting up a cigarette, or compulsively checking your e-mail.

I think there is a lot of confusion between these two aspects amongst the general public, which leads to misconceptions like the [“cure” to alcoholism being complete abstinence](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2002/09/22/games-people-play-alcoholicaddict/). Sure, abstinence solves the substance abuse problem and is better for one’s health, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the *addiction* problem.

Addictions which are linked to otherwise useful tools are forcing us to look deeper (and that is actually what I’m trying to say in the [Addicted to Technology post](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/02/12/addicted-to-technology/). The problem is not the substance (ie, alcohol, or even the drug, or in this case, technology). The problem is in the way a person might use it. Hence I maintain that the solution lies not in the **removal of the tool/technology**, as the panel moderator suggests twice (first, by asking us to turn off our laptops, and second, by asking “how to unplug”), but in a careful and personalised evaluation of what one uses technology for (or what one uses technology to avoid).

I had a talk after the panel with one of the people there, who told me of some rough numbers he got from a consultation in Paris which is rather cutting-edge when it comes to dealing with “internet addiction” amongst teenagers. I think that out of 250 referrals (or something), the breakdown was about the following: one third were parents freaking out with no objective reason to. Another third were parents freaking out with good reason, for the signs that brought them there were actually the first indicators of their child’s entry in schizophrenia. I can’t remember the exact details for the last third, but if I recall correctly the bottom line was that they had something like a dozen solid cases of “cyber addictions” in the end. (Please don’t quote me on these numbers because the details might be wrong — and if you *have* precise numbers, I’d be happy to have them.)

This confirms my impression that people are [a bit quick in shouting “internet addiction”](http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/2006/10/internet_addict.html “5-10% sounds like way too much.”) when faced with heavy users (just like people are a bit quick to shout “pedophiles!” and “sexual sollicitation!” whenever [teenagers and the internet](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/12/20/adolescents-myspace-internet-citations-de-danah-boyd-et-henry-jenkins/) are involved). I personally don’t think that the amount of time spent using technology is a good indicator.

I took [some very rough notes](http://climbtothestars.org/files/20070221-cyberaddiction-table-ronde-geneve-notes.txt) during the panel I participated in (half-French, half-English, half-secret-code) but you can have a peek if you wish.

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Le rire [fr]

[en] We don't just laugh when we're happy. We sometimes also laugh when we're uncomfortable, or to try and pacify a potentially agressive person.

Extrait d’un petit “speech” fait à  mes élèves cette semaine, suite à  un incident de mobbing:

L’être humain ne rit pas juste parce qu’il est content ou parce qu’il trouve quelque chose drôle. L’être humain rit quand il est mal à  l’aise ou gêné. Vous le faites tous, par exemple quand je vous interroge et que vous ne savez pas quoi répondre.

L’être humain rit également pour désamorcer l’agressivité de l’autre, pour tenter de le pacifier. Le rire est donc un très mauvais indicateur de l’adéquation de ce que l’on fait subir à  autrui.

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