Technology has become an integral part of our lives, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. It’s ingrained in our society, making our lives easier and keeping us connected to the entire world.
However, as much as technology brings a high level of convenience, it also makes it incredibly easy to get hooked on it.
Are you frequently glued to the screen, finding it impossible to put down your smartphone lest your FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling sets in? Are you falling down the internet rabbit hole, wasting your time on trivial things like checking what your favourite celebrities are up to?
If that’s the case, it’s highly likely you are addicted to technology, and you’re not alone.
According to Ofcom research
, 43% of UK adults admit that they spend too much time online.
As a matter of fact, Britons spend more time on tech than asleep
- 8 hours 41 minutes a day.
But is digital addiction that big of a deal? Is it a threat to your real-life relationships and mental health? Read on to find out.
What Exactly Do We Categorise as Digital Addiction?
Digital addiction is an obsessive, and compulsive need to use smartphones and other digital devices to an extent where it negatively affects various aspects of your life.
For instance, it may prevent you from performing well at your job or negatively affect your relationships.
It’s an impulse control disorder with symptoms that are alarmingly similar to those of substance abuse.
It truly is an addiction, and it is a real threat, both to your mental health and your social life.
How Does Technology Turn Us into Addicts?
When you engage in an activity you like, such as interacting with friends online or playing a video game, your brain releases dopamine - the feel-good neurotransmitter - as a reward.
Over time, you end up wanting more of that dopamine-induced happy feeling, so you engage more in that thing you like, completely disregarding other stuff and people around you.
That’s how any addiction starts, and that’s how technology keeps you hooked
Trying to fight it activates the “fight or flight” response in your brain, making you behave quite similarly to a drug addict. The most notable behavioural changes include mood swings and conflict.
So, if you continuously use, let’s say, social media, you will continually stimulate your dopamine production. All those pings and vibrations you hear will always trigger your “fight or flight” response, making you unable to stop checking the news feed and using the “pull to refresh” function to avoid missing out.
Are There Different Types of Digital Addiction?
There are three main types of digital addiction, including social media, gaming, and the internet as a whole.
1. Social media addiction
Social media addiction
is self-explanatory. Suppose you excessively use social channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, to an extent where it interferes with your real-life relationships or work. In that case, you should consider yourself addicted to social media.
This includes frequently checking social media for notifications, messages, and news, and sharing every aspect of your life with your online friends and followers.
The symptoms of this type of digital addiction include anxiety and bad mood when you’re not using social media.
2. Gaming addiction
This one’s self-explanatory. When someone has a gaming addiction
, they obsessively play video games to the point where they rarely even leave the room to socialise with family and friends.
The symptoms often include anxiety, tension, restlessness, irritability, anger, and even conflict when not being able to indulge in gaming.
3. Internet addiction
involves compulsive use of the internet, whether for online shopping, online auctions, trading stocks, gambling, or anything else that disrupts your life and relationships with people.
Internet addicts are often angry, depressed, and anxious when not being able to feed their addiction.
What Are the Negative Side Effects of This Addiction?
It’s clear that digital addiction has a deteriorating effect on an addict’s relationships and work life. When they disregard anything and anyone around them to spend time online, their entire quality of life suffers.
If they continuously lose a lot of money because of their gambling addiction, for instance, they could experience severe consequences. Not only do such bad habits often wreak havoc on their financial stability and future, but they also ruin their relationships with people.
Digital addiction also leads to poor mental health
As we’ve mentioned, digital addiction creates neurological connections in your brain that are quite similar to substance abuse. Not having access to technology triggers withdrawal symptoms that are similar to fighting opioid addiction.
Remember all that dopamine you get when engaging in an activity you like? Well, take that dopamine away, and you end up being in a very low mood.
What’s more, you experience a lower level of happiness every time you engage in your addictive activity. That’s because your body can’t produce as much dopamine as your brain thinks it needs. You always get a little less than you want, so you slowly start feeling depressed, anxious, lonely, and isolated.
That’s a recipe for disaster, isn’t it?
Digital addiction is a real threat to today’s society. If you let technology tighten its grip on you, you might fall down the time-wasting rabbit hole, which can be incredibly challenging to get out of.
If you’re addicted to any aspect of the digital world, or you feel like you’re getting there, do a digital detox right now. Log off, step away from your digital device, and reconnect with the real world.
You’ll liberate yourself, improve relationships, boost productivity, and enjoy life more. Practice it every day, and you’ll live your life to the fullest.