Technology Addiction — Is it real?

3 min read

The notification bell rings. You get the urge to check it. You took your phone and checked it. “Wow…One more like for my pic” or no bell and “Why my pic don’t get likes?”.

Just after watching a YouTube video, you are shown another video with similar interest. You feel the urge to watch it.

Completed a difficult level in a video game. You got a sense of achievement. You feel like a winner. You want to achieve more and so play more. But you failed, so you tried even harder for more hours.

Scenarios like these are common nowadays. Surely, technology has taken a great place in our lives…. MAYBE MORE THAN HUMANS. Sometimes I feel that devices and machines are more trustworthy. They never hurt you intentionally, never cheat nor stab you from the back. Maybe because of that people prefer them more.

Humans are called trustworthy if they don’t cheat. So, can a thing that is not able to cheat be called trustworthy? Whatever, they can never replace humans

Or maybe people like them so much as a means to enjoy the happiness or share their feelings, whatever the emotions, technology gives us a way to express them or give a way to escape the reality or get us relieved from stress or anxiety temporarily. So, is it similar to drugs and alcohol which gives temporary relaxation and calmness? Can technology be addictive?

Yes and No. The discussion is still going. There are many trying to point out it is addictive and there are others trying to point out it is not.

Dopamine is induced when we do activities that are pleasurable to us and it is the same with technology. if the activities we do by technology are pleasurable, dopamine level rises. Anything can only be considered addictive if it raises dopamine levels even if there are negative effects due to it.

Why technology is considered to be addictive?

If one uses technology for a long duration such that it affects his current life negatively, the person might be getting addicted to technology. Technology can provide entertainment, fast information, a sense of connection, and sense of purpose. So it is likely people start to use technology for positive reasons and eventually may get addicted.

While playing video games our brain provides similar feelings as in a real life. When we succeed in a task, we are motivated and encouraged to continue more and if it’s a level-based game we are encouraged to take more difficult levels and the excitement about how the next level will be. If we fail, still we will feel the urge to try one more time. Whether we win or lose the game keeps us hooked.

Considering social media, it shares a similarity with gambling: the uncertainty of whether our posts will be liked or shared, whether our stories will be seen or replied to, and so on. This is similar to a casino where it is uncertain whether we will hit the jackpot. This uncertainty leads us to check our phones more frequently.

Also, the availability of fast information on whatever subject we need, keeps us hooked on browsing. This may also be bad as we keep on browsing in a way that affects our life negatively.

FOMO or Fear of Missing Out which is the state of mind of a person who is thinking he must be missing great activities, news, or information that others are getting. FOMO can be easily aroused in persons who use social media for a long duration. This keeps the person hooked to the site due to the fear that he may miss something if left for a long time. This is the reason for the urge to check phone’s or notifications frequently.

So, technology is considered to be addictive because similar to drugs, technology rewards the activities and a person may end up using it despite the negative consequences.

Why technology is not considered to be addictive?

Unlike drugs, alcoholic drinks or gambling technology has great benefits. So it is confusing whether the problem is technology overuse or technology addiction. A world where there is no alcoholic drinks, drugs, or gambling can be imagined and such a world will not affect us negatively. But in the case of technology, a world without it would be a great loss. It will affect negatively all areas of human life and civilization.

Technology also doesn’t show direct harm even if used for a long time. Most of the negative effects of technology are indirect or psychological. it’s either our behavior, productivity, or lifestyle that is affected by an overuse of technology. This is not the case with drugs, alcoholic drinks, or gambling in which the overuse brings direct harm through serious diseases and in the case of gambling, financial loss. Even if technology can be addictive, it does not show serious problems like other addictive activities.

However social media can amplify one’s feelings. If one is depressed it may make them even more depressed or if someone is happy, it may make them even happier. So there are both sides to the same thing.

To put it in a nutshell, it’s not clear whether technology is addictive. We have looked at it from both perspectives and both of them are on par with each other. Thinking from one perspective, it is addictive, and thinking from the other, it is not.

Shafi Sahal A software developer working at a startup in the fintech domain. As a technology enthusiast I am concerned about the ways in which technology can be used to help people and as a human being I am concerned about promoting rational, critical and liberal or free thought.

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