What is a Digital Addiction?
Digital addiction can be characterized by a psychological or behavioural dependence on electronic devices. This addiction is rarely the device’s fault but rather the usage of apps and games fuelled by the internet.
As such, digital addiction can take many forms beyond regular cell phone use such as:
1. Virtual Relationships
- Social media
- Dating apps
2. Content consumption
- Compulsive web surfing
- Watching videos
- Playing games
- Checking the news
3. Cybersex addiction
- Internet pornography
- Adult messaging services
4. Online compulsions
- Stock trading
- Online shopping
- Online auction bidding
Cellphones and Smartphones Overuse
It is estimated that most cell phone users touch their phones 2617 times a day. They spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on average on their phone a day and check their phones every 3 minutes.
Cell Phones have become such a huge part of our lives that we don’t leave home without them. While devices like phones, tablets, or computers can be valuable and powerful tools, extensive use can turn them into a double-edged sword.
You may have an addiction when:
- You notice your usage of these devices interfering with work, school, and relationships.
- You spend more time on social media than interacting with real people.
- You feel a compulsive need to check for texts, emails, and other notifications constantly.
Here we’ll take a look at the consequences of digital addiction, what makes the internet so addictive, and some tips and tricks on how to kick the habit of over-using your devices.
Consequences of Digital Addiction
1. Unhealthy Virtual Relationships
Virtual relationships are not a healthy nor sufficient substitute for relationships in real life. Compulsive use can lead to reduction of quality conversations, neglect of in-person relationships, and self-isolation. The game-like dating apps can also alter your goals to short-term relationships and hookups instead of developing long-term and meaningful relationships if you aren’t careful.
2. Lowers Daily Productivity
Due to the internet’s distracting nature and its immediate accessibility, content consumption can cause lower productivity at work or school. It can damage your ability to focus and problem-solving, impact short-term memory, and hinder patience. This distraction may also lead to neglecting your professional, academic, social, family, and personal responsibilities.
3. Sexual Content Addiction
While sexual addiction has its negative consequences, the internet makes it more accessible and convenient, which results in cybersex addiction. Excessive consumption of adult content and apps can be detrimental to forming long-term relationships or damaging existing ones.
4. Online Gambling Compulsions
The availability of the internet has made gambling, stock trading, shopping, and auction bidding far more accessible. These online compulsions can often lead to financial strains as you may gamble away money you can’t afford to lose or purchase items you don’t need.
5. Unhealthy Sleep Habits
Overuse of your devices can also be damaging to your sleep. In the evening, when you’re winding down, your body produces melatonin, which is hindered if you are using your phone.
Back-lit devices, such as cellphones, computers, tablets, etc., emit blue light, which, when exposed too close to bedtime, disrupts the circadian rhythm that is the body’s natural 24-hour sleep and wake clock.
Disrupting the body’s circadian rhythm suppresses and delays melatonin secretion, resulting in poor quality of sleep, reducing its duration, and prolonging how long it takes to fall asleep.
6. Mental Health Influences
There is a positive correlation between internet usage and mental health problems. These consequences can cause distress and lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, and OCD, just to name a few.
Why Is It So Addictive?
There’s a reason why cell phone overuse can quickly become a behavioural addiction: the triggering of a chemical in the brain called dopamine which encourages compulsive behaviour.
Dopamine is a “feel-good” chemical released in your brain when you’re in rewarding situations. For most people, activities like social interactions, eating food, sex, and exercise stimulate dopamine release. However, the internet and social media also provide a hit of dopamine every time notifications such as “likes” and “comments” show up on your phone.
This is why we have become accustomed to constantly checking our devices. Humans are naturally drawn to activities that release dopamine, so we are virtually compelled to use our devices continually.
8 Tips and Tricks to Avoid Digital Addiction
1. Schedule timeouts
Turn off your phone during certain times during the day or only allow yourself to use your phone at scheduled times, such as a 10-minute phone break every couple of hours.
2. Ban certain apps on your phone
Remove social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat from your phone and only check-in from your laptop so social media becomes less accessible.
3. Use grayscale
Grayscale turns your screen black and white, which makes your phone less engaging.
4. Try a Social Media Cleanse for 30 Days
Set a challenge for yourself to delete your social media apps for 30 days to reset your usage and dependency on them.
5. Use time limiting apps
Apps like “Forest,” “Moment,” and “Screentime” helps the user control and limit their screen time.
6. Don’t Sleep Next to Your Phone
The first thing most people do when they wake up is check their phones. This simple act can help prevent this habit.
7. Turn off Notifications
Turning off unimportant notifications can reduce interruptions and distractions.
8. Find a Hobby
Replace your phone with healthier activities such as reading, meditating, exercising, or hanging out with friends.
If these tips didn’t curb your digital addiction, you might seek help from other sources such as consulting a cognitive-behavioural therapist or joining excessive technology use support groups.
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Written by: Sean Shih