Most young people today cannot even imagine a time without the internet, Facebook, Google, Snapchat – they are permanently connected, and almost permanently online. Smartphones mean that we are only ever a click away from being connected, and it is all too easy for people’s casual usage to slide into internet addiction. Even some of the biggest names in technology recognise this is an issue, with both Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) and Chris Anderson (former editor of Wired magazine) admitting to limiting the time their children were allowed to spend on technology. Jobs even admitted in 2011 before his death that his children had never used an iPad.
But What’s So Bad About Using Technology?
Nobody wants to hear that they spend too much time on their phone, but we have all seen people out with friends, or for dinner, sitting in silence glued to their screen. But apart from the obvious rudeness and death of true social interaction, is it actually harmful?
The effects of the internet, and technology, addiction is not immediately apparent. Unlike addictions to alcohol or drugs, which have clear physical signs, the effects of a technology addiction are more subtle, but nonetheless still damaging.
A study carried out by psychologists in 2013 involved asking pairs of strangers to sit together and have a conversation about something interesting that had happened to them. On a table beside the pairs was placed either a notebook or a smartphone. The pairs who talked with the smartphone beside them found it more difficult to establish a connection and described their partners as being less engaging and trustworthy. The researchers say this effect occurs because the presence of the phone reminds people of the surrounding world, removing their attention from the immediate point in time.
A further study in 2014 showed that people who are successful in their career are more likely to become addicted to technology, possibly because of the ever-present use of technology in the majority of employment. It also found that they are more likely to develop psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression as well as feelings of isolation as they repeatedly access their technology out of working hours.
In addition to these issues, using your smartphone or tablet late at night causes disruption to sleep. The blueish light produced by these smart screens is actually signalling your body that it is time to wake up. Poor quality disrupted sleep or insomnia is the result, which can lead to all sorts of physical illnesses. Insufficient sleep has been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease, kidney problems, lung disease, problems with weight management, an increased pain threshold, depression, mood swings and even some types of cancer.
So Why Are People Developing Internet Addiction?
While there is evidence that certain genetic factors can make someone more likely to develop an addiction, individual circumstances are more important in forming addictions. As some of the high flyers in the technology industry quickly realised, we are all at risk of developing an addiction to technology. Yet the technology they produce is actually specifically designed to encourage us to spend more time using it. Why? Because the more time we spend using social media like Facebook, Instagram, and so on, the more money these companies get from advertisers.
Adam Alder, the author of a book on technology addiction, explains, “Human behaviour is driven in part by a succession of reflexive cost-benefit calculations that determine whether an act will be performed once, twice, a hundred times, or not at all. When the benefits overwhelm the costs, it’s hard not to perform the act over and over again, particularly when it strikes just the right neurological notes.”
The right neurological notes in this case are the comments, likes, and shares we get on social media. The buzz you get when someone reacts positively to something you posted, that is the trigger that feeds the addiction. Combined with the constant flow of information, which you cannot possibly miss any of. It all ends up a potent addictive cocktail.
What Can I Do About Internet Addiction?
Firstly, be aware of how much time you are spending online, whether it’s on a laptop, PC, tablet, or smartphone. There are apps you can download that monitor your smartphone usage, and these can be helpful as many people check their phone without realising they are doing it.
Turn off notifications for the things you don’t actually need. Do you really need to know every time someone posts something in that Facebook group? Is it that important to know when someone has uploaded a new picture to Instagram? Keep the key elements you need, like SMS alerts, and email (if it is work related) but get rid of the rest.
Switch your phone off at least an hour before bed. And leave the phone outside the bedroom. If you need it for alarms, then get an alarm clock. Your sleep will be better, and your body will thank you for it.
If you are in the company of others, then leave the phone hidden away. It’s rude, and you are also damaging your ability to form a meaningful relationship with those people. If you cannot do that, then maybe it is time to ditch the smartphone and go back to an old style ‘brick’.
If you are seriously struggling with an internet or technology addiction, then we can help. At Liberty House, we have experience in helping people with all kinds of addiction and can help you to change your behaviour and thinking into a healthier pathway. So call us today for more information.
Source: (Highsnobiety) Your Smartphone Is Ruining Your Health