March 7, 2017
With Smartphones performing as many functions as a desktop computer, it is no wonder that people spend a great deal of time staring at them. These handy devices entertain, inform and connect people to the world. As a result, many people are becoming addicted to mobile devices.
One of the most common activities for which people use their mobile phones is reading and posting on social media. It can be addictive to see how many people “like” or “favorite” your posts. You may find yourself constantly checking and updating your social media feeds to see how many new messages and likes you have. This can lead to increased anxiety and obsessive behavior.
Mobile device use can be so addicting, the phone in your hand distracts you from what is going on in the real world. It is not uncommon to see someone actually walk into a pole or trip because they are looking at their phone instead of the sidewalk or street. Mobile devices distract parents from watching their kids’ sports games. Smartphones also present a potentially deadly distraction to drivers on the road. Even though many communities and even entire states have banned texting and driving, people still do it and cause accidents while using their devices.
Avoiding Real-life Interactions
Addictions to mobile devices cause some people to avoid real-life interactions. Instead of meeting friends for coffee or to hang out, people send texts. It is not unheard of for people to message their spouse or children who are in the same room or across the hallway.
Spending a lot of time staring at a mobile device can become so addictive that you stay up late and miss out on sleep. Exposure to the device’s bright light can even make it difficult to fall asleep. A notification of a new message or an app update can light up the device, waking you. You may even lose track of how much time you are spending playing games, reading posts or sending texts.
The Anatomy of an Addiction
Emerging research is challenging our previously-held ideas about what an addiction actually is. The traditional narrative goes something like this: teenager falls in with a bad crowd, relents to peer pressure and tries a hit of marijuana. The chemical hooks in the THC create a chemical dependency that sends junior on a terrifying death spiral as he seeks out stronger and stronger sources to keep up his high.
However, experts now believe that the chemical hooks in narcotics have little or nothing to do with addiction. Rather, addiction cravings are a response to crashes after dopamine releases in the Nucleus Accumbens region of the brain. This dopamine release can be triggered by a drug high, but also by adrenaline from a thrilling theme park ride, a first kiss, viewing pornography, conquering a new challenge in a video game, or getting a text from your BFF. Each of these behaviors stimulate dopamine release, which means any one of them can become very, very addictive.
Particularly concerning is that adolescent brains are not fully mature. If teens and young adults teach their brain to rely on the dopamine shortcuts of emotional validation through Instagram, digital pseudo-connectivity on Tinder, and the lurid fantasyland of Internet pornography, it is highly likely that their brains will rely on these stimuli rather than seek out actual connectedness and validation in the real world. Being both heavily tech-dependent and unable to make authentic human connection, these adolescent addicts will likely fall into a dark and dangerous depressive episode that may threaten their very lives. This may sound sensational, but in an age of rising suicide rates, this is a very real concern.
Mobile addiction impacts your social life, relationships, productivity and concentration. It can even have considerable impact on your health and well-being. What’s the answer? Do we all need to live like the Amish to avoid the complications of 21st Century life? I’m all about simplifying life, but such a drastic step is probably not necessary. Consider implementing time limits such as charging phones outside of the bedroom, or “unplugging” for at least one evening per week.
Rachael Murphey is an entrepreneur and writer on topics of business, marketing, finance, leadership, and personal success. She currently lives in Denver, CO with her dog Charlie.