If this headline has piqued your interest, it’s probably because you’re questioning whether you do indeed have an addiction to technology.
Are you dependent on your devices? Do you feel the need to be in constant contact with others? Do you find yourself obsessively checking for emails, messages, missed calls? Are you continually engaged on social media – mindlessly scrolling for satisfaction?
Like millions of us, we are attached to our devices most of the time, with some of us even “wearing” smartphones as a brand accessory.
A study carried out by software company RescueTime showed that an average user spends around 3 hours and 15 minutes per day on their phone and a top smartphone user will spend 4 hours and 30 minutes per day on devices.
As many of us struggle to go a day without technology, the threat of tech addiction is a growing problem.
What is tech addiction?
Technology addiction is often described as the inability to control the use of technological devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and gaming systems. And in particular as a result of the use of various types of technology involving the internet, video gaming, shopping and numerous social media sites.
Although technology is inevitable in our everyday lives, it’s important to differentiate from the regular use and the problematic, addictive use.
The effects of over-dependence can manifest itself in both physical and emotional symptoms.
What are the symptoms of tech addiction?
Common symptoms include mood imbalance, insomnia, agitation, poor diet, denial, lack of control, loss of interest in important daily activities and neglect in relationships, work or school life.
Some individuals become so obsessed with online activities and social media that they have difficulties engaging with the present world.
Excessive use of technology, especially social media may have a negative impact on mental health and development, particularly among children and young adults.
Research suggests that young people who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to report poor mental health and internalising behaviours – including anxiety and depression.
Fighting for our undivided attention
While we are manipulated by the most powerful digital marketing channels that have a vested interest in keeping our eyeballs glued to their screens, we are also driven by the top tech forces the world has ever seen.
Tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon who have a far-reaching influence on millions of consumers worldwide.
As these multi-billion companies fight for first place, a record-breaking number of active users are influenced by compelling technology. These sophisticated technologies rely on persuasive and motivational techniques to lure us in and keep us hooked.
Techniques which encourage specific human behaviour, for example, video gamers are driven by a developmental desire to gain skills and accomplishments.
The latest generation of video games are designed with triggers to increase the time spent playing on them – the more time spent, the more rewards you get or add-ons you’ll purchase.
A craving for social media
Similarly, with social media companies, the motivation is the craving for social connection and popularity. A breeding ground for comparison, young adults, in particular, spend hours perfecting profile images and making comparisons with one another.
Social media influencers, notorious for creating that perfect “Insta” pic, have a direct impact on the behaviour of followers – leading to the development of a self-absorbed culture of young people with potentially harmful outcomes.
As advancements in technology continue to develop, the problem with addiction to smartphones becomes great. Dependency leads to feelings of distress and anxiety if we are out of mobile contact or without our phones. Often fuelled by the overuse of internet addiction, these feelings of fear and separation anxiety are known as “nomophobia” aka no-mobile-phone-phobia, a term coined by researchers 12 years ago and added to the online Cambridge dictionary in 2018.
Even the most influential tech figures in the world: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, are known to have limited their kid’s tech time at home.
So how do tech companies respond?
After years ensuring dependency is at the core of their designs – how have tech companies responded to consumer criticism on the overuse of technology?
Tech giants Google and Apple offer screen time features that monitor and restrict phone use. Apple has also implemented a communications limit so that parents can set limitations on kids Contacts lists for incoming and outgoing phone calls, messages and FaceTime – whether during the permitted screen time or otherwise.
Limiting screen time
With family time often compromised by continuous screen time, adults should also set a good example. Yet many parents find it challenging to limit screen time and are often just as guilty of digital distraction. To ensure children develop healthy habits parents need to first be aware of their own habits and introduce real boundaries and balance. Curbing screen time by banning phones or iPads at mealtimes and spending quality time together as a family doing fun activities is a good start.
Is technology really the problem?
Technologies like social media can offer a range of global benefits and opportunities. One of the most powerful benefits is the ability to raise global awareness of an important issue. Every day, more people, such as mental health and body-positive advocates, promote change and make positive interactions to a mass audience.
Social media is also a great platform for like-minded people with similar interests to share their views. It provides them with the opportunity to stay in touch and nurture relationships around the world.
Like it or not, technology has also become essential in today’s schools. It is an integral part of modern-day learning with students and teachers constantly engaging inside and outside of the classroom.
Technology in the classroom can help students learn useful life skills needed to be successful in the education and careers of the future.
While technology can add a wealth of value to our lives it’s important to use it mindfully and find a healthy balance with other aspects of “real” daily life.
If you’d like to discuss your tech use with one of our clinicians, contact us today for a free and no obligations chat.