Tech & Internet Addiction

What is Technology Addiction?

Addiction or mere dependence? It’s a fine line. However, developing a compulsive need to use your digital devices, to the extent where it interferes with your life and stops you from doing things you need to do, is the hallmark of an addiction.

There are three different types of digital addiction which include phone addiction, internet addiction and social media addiction.

Addiction has historically been associated with substance dependence, however, since the 1980s the concern of potentially excessive and problematic behaviors such as gambling grew in recognition, and caused experts to contemplate reclassification. Scholars have suggested addictions specific as Facebook addiction, nevertheless, for this article please consider Griffith’s assertion of technology addiction, a behavioral addiction in which problems arise from excessive human-machine interaction. Hence the general use of the TV for binge-watching your favorite series, the use of your computer for writing reports and checking emails, and the use of your cellphone for scrolling social applications (e.g., Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn could all pave the path to a potential problem.

Although absent from the present diagnostic guidelines such as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), scholars have recognized that while fine, there may be a line between general technology use and unhealthy use related to physical, social, and psychological problems.

Examples of problems associated with excessive technology use

  • Sedentary lifestyle1: More time spent on a screen is associated with less time for physical fitness. Similarly, remaining in a fixed posture could cause musculoskeletal symptoms.
  • Vision1: The lengthy use of devices could cause visual symptoms (e.g., discomfort, eyestrain, blurred vision, headache)
  • Injuries1: Devices are often used while carrying out other tasks (i.e, walking, driving) and may cause the user to be more susceptible to accidents.
  • Infections1,2: Simply put, devices may have more germs than a toilet seat.
  • Social development1: More time spent on online engagement over face-to-face interaction may hinder social skill development or cause social withdrawal.
  • Sleep deprivation1,3: Devices may cut into one’s sleep cycle. Further, depending on the use, an individual may be wired, alert, and unable to rest.
  • Psychological concerns1,4-10: Excessive use of technology has been associated with several mental health concerns such as poor psychological well-being, poor self-confidence anxiety, depression, lower emotional stability, and lower life satisfaction.

Researchers have created assessments to gauge the different domains within technology addiction. Such efforts include, but are not limited to, the Compulsive Internet Use Scale, the Mobile Phone Problematic Use Scale, the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale, and the Multidimensional Facebook Intensity Scale. Further, scholars remain focused on exploring the potentially problematic use of technology. Some have asserted that technology addiction is not an independent concern, but a flag for a potential underlying psychological problem1Regardless of the semantics surrounding addiction, research has consistently shown that there may be problematic associations with excessive technology use.

Based on the present literature here are some prompts to ponder if you are concerned about your technology use:

  • Have you noticed an increase in how often you use your device?
  • Have you felt guilty about how often you use your device?
  • Do you experience an urge to use your device?
  • When you are using your device, do you experience a lift in your mood?
  • When you are using your device, do you experience a thrill?
  • When unable to use your device do you experience discomfort?
  • Have you noticed times in which it seems as though time was lost while you were in the zone using your device?
  • Do you use your device to brighten your mood?
  • Have you tried to reduce the amount of time that you use your device?
  • If so, were you successful in reducing your amount?
  • Have your loved ones complained about your use?
  • If yes, have you continued your usage rate regardless of their complaints?

Please keep in mind that these questions are to help you flag a potential concern. It does not substitute for a psychometrically-sound assessment or guidance from a trained mental health professional. Nevertheless, if you respond affirmatively to several of these questions, and particularly if you exhibit some of the concerns noted above, it may be helpful to consider help for your underlying concerns.

Further reading

Apartment Guide published an insightful article on a related subject, which they asked us to help them write. Why should you avoid using your phone before bed?

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