Smartphones have become an important part of our lives for the majority of us, enabling us to be connected and up to date all the time. The negative aspect of this convenience is that a lot of us are addicted to the frequent chimes, pings, vibrations and other device alerts, not able to ignore new texts, emails and images. Researchers believe that excessive use of smart phones is the same as any other kind of substance abuse. The behavioral addiction of the usage of smartphones gradually begins creating neurological brain connections in ways much like how individuals using Oxycontin for relief of pain experience opioid addiction.
Added to that, social media technology addiction could in fact impact our social connections negatively. A survey of students found that those who made use of their phones more than others had higher levels of feeling lonely, isolated, anxious and depressed. It’s believed the loneliness is to some extent a result of replacing one on one interaction with a type of communication that’s lacking body language and other communication signals which can’t be interpreted. It was also discovered that those same students virtually always multitasked while eating, watching other media, studying, or going to class. This constant activity enables little time for minds and bodies to unwind and regenerate, and also leads to “semi-tasking,” where individuals perform 2 or more tasks simultaneously, but half as well compared to if they would’ve if focused on 1 task at a time.
It’s noted by the researchers that digital addiction isn’t our fault but a consequence of the need to increase profits by the tech industry. Vibrations, push notifications and other computer and phone alerts compel us to look at them by activating the same brain neural pathways that once warned us of impending danger, like an attack by some large predator. For the most trivial bits of information, we’ve now been hijacked by those very same mechanisms that used to protect us and help us to survive.
We can however take charge and teach ourselves to be less dependent on our computers and phones in the same way we can teach ourselves to eat less sugar. The first step is realizing that innate biological responses are being dangerously manipulated by the tech companies. The researchers suggest that we turn off push notifications, only answer social media and email at certain times and schedule periods without any distractions for focusing on important things.