Technology threshold use has become normalized by the toddler tinkering with a tablet so his parents get some free time, the teen locked away in their room tied to their computer, and to the adult buried in their phone at a social engagement are just a few examples of ordinary use, however is it really the beginning of addiction. In our present day, the increase in popularity and integration of technology in our daily lives prompts one to ponder the potential of developing an addiction to technology.
At what point are we at risk for crossing the fine line from general use to problematic use leading to addiction? This is an interesting topic and why we chose to investigate it. Addiction has historically been associated with substance dependence, however, in 2018 “Psychology Scholars have suggested addictions specific as Facebook addiction as behavioral addiction in which problems arise from excessive human-machine interaction resulting in the term FAD (Facebook Addiction Disorder)”.
The general use of the TV binge-watching your favorite series, the use of your laptop, always checking emails and texts, and the use of your smartphone for social applications like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn could all be the road to a potential problem. “Fifty percent of teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices, according to the poll, which was conducted for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit focused on helping children, parents, teachers, and policymakers negotiate media and technology.
A larger number of parents, 59%, said their teens were addicted. The poll involved 1,240 interviews with parents and their children, ages 12 to 18.” Statistics for technology are that 40 percent of children ages 0–8 have their own iPad or smartphone. On average, children 18 and under pull out their devices twice as often than those older than them because they have grown up with and rely on these devices to connect with their friends and the world.
Examples of the effects of technology addiction include:
- Sedentary lifestyle: The more time spent on a screen is associated with less time for physical fitness. Similarly, remaining in a fixed posture could cause musculoskeletal symptoms.
- Vision: The lengthy use of devices could cause visual symptoms (e.g., discomfort, eyestrain, blurred vision, headache).
- Injuries: Devices are often used while carrying out other tasks (i.e, walking, driving) and may cause the user to be more susceptible to accidents. Infections: Simply put, devices may have more germs than a toilet seat.
- Social development: More time spent on online engagement over face-to-face interaction may hinder social skill development or cause social withdrawal.
- Sleep deprivation: Devices may cut into one’s sleep cycle. Further, depending on the use, an individual may be wired, alert, and unable to rest.
- Psychological concerns: Excessive use of technology has been associated with several mental health concerns such as poor psychological well-being, poor self‐ confidence anxiety, depression, lower emotional stability, and lower life satisfaction.
Our addiction to modern technology boils down to some key elements that feed off one another like “Variable Rewards: Each time you visit Facebook, you may have five notifications, you may have none. Your recent photo may have 12 Likes, it may have 270. This variable reward system is captivating for obvious reasons and always keeps users coming back for more.
It’s a slot machine. Every reward is unique. The feedback you receive from any given post updates in real-time and changes every minute. This gambling mentality is difficult to resist and makes us feel the need to return frequently. Distraction: Boredom is our worst enemy, so we will do anything to avoid it — even if it’s something that makes us less happy.
In Alter’s book, he references a fascinating experiment from 2014 in which people actually preferred to shock themselves than sit alone with their thoughts for 20 minutes. Many of us would prefer chaos over predictability in our daily lives, and social media reinforces this notion because it’s a feedback loop that becomes more arresting the more we use it. Stopping Cues: In 2012, Netflix officially launched the binge-watching revolution with the rollout of auto-play across its entire platform.
Soon enough, Facebook and YouTube adopted the same feature. This, of course, has led to a skyrocketing increase in video usage since then. On top of that, infinite scrolling has also become a mainstream design element in social media. The content never stops, which is how five minutes turns into 30 minutes — without the user even realizing it. Vanity Metrics: In our culture, people are consumed by the constant pursuit of arbitrary numerical goals as a result of real-time feedback. You just ran ten miles.
Walked 10,000 steps. Your post got 100 shares. You received your 1,000th follower. You surpassed all of your friends for the longest Snapstreak (the worst of all). These “micro-victories” don’t mean anything, but they provide us with a dopamine hit each time, and their increasing frequency drives us to spend more time and strive to hit new trivial goals on a regular basis.”
Since technology is extremely prevalent in our lives from smart homes, to use for work, digital books, our cars avoiding the “substance” which is technology will be hard to avoid. There is no set steps to cure this addiction either. Silicon Valley needs to harness its power to limit addiction through conscious, ethical product development.
The negative effects are abundant and will only become greater as the race for our attention heats up. Until a proven method like AA is put in place for technology addicts it is really up to the individual. Perhaps less use of apps, use ones that make you feel better about yourself. Turn off unnecessary notifications. Holding yourself accountable is what is needed. Parents need to set boundaries with their children. It is very difficult to not use any technology so accountability and self-restriction and a strong willpower is needed.
While removing screens entirely is practically impossible, we know that will be hard for us to go back to a time with no technology as it is woven throughout our lives. In our life, we are trying not to post on the popular apps like Instagram and Facebook. We are trying not to use our phones at dinner and focus on the meal and the conversation thus having an experience of connecting with people face to face. The smartphone has become our modern “comfort blankie”, which is an abusive relationship and hard to give up, however, eventually we all did as children.