The Digital Addiction

Digital Addicts

WELCOME TO THE DIGITAL AGE WHERE WE’RE USED TO COMMUNICATING IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS. HOW DEADLY IS THE NEW-AGE DIGITAL ADDICTION?

There’s nothing worse than sitting at brunch with a friend while they incessantly scroll through their phone. I’ve even made a detailed mental list of the people I’ve sat down for a meal with who have dandruff, due to my ample opportunity to scrutinise the top of their head. The reality of technology these days is that it is a constant in our lives. Studies show the average Millennial spends 18 hours per day using any type of digital media while nearly four in ten Millennials say they interact more with their smartphones than they do with actual humans. Although none of us can argue that these forms of technology haven’t made aspects of our lives easier and more efficient, with convenience comes reliance. Most people feel ‘naked’ without their phones, and we fill our days by tapping away at touch screens in order to feel ‘connected’, without making any real connections at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not innocent either. I used to be a pretty big reader. Getting home after a long day, reading books and magazines was the ideal way to wind down. But the other day I was in my reading nook, flipping through one of my favourite magazines and I just couldn’t concentrate. My phone kept lighting up and I ended up making it through only half a paragraph before I picked it up, sat back (with the magazine still in my lap) and went back to the default of scrolling, dipping between apps, scrolling, texting friends, scrolling and so on.

Our lives are dominated by short-form content (anything under 1,000 words). The way we communicate is restricted by maximum caption length and optimising our message to search engines. Getting your point across needs to be short, sharp and confined to the typical length of a blog post (that is if you make it to the end without clicking a link that opens another tab). No wonder our generation is finding it hard to concentrate!

We live in a world where we could get through an entire day in public without actually speaking to anyone. You order your food on an app, go through the self-serve checkout, then spend 20 minutes on a customer service call to a machine. A lower quality of social interaction is now becoming the status quo. Getting together for lunch or a meeting at work means your phone is instantly the first thing on the table. Instead of using it as an opportunity to connect with others, a lull in conversation is now just another cue to check your messages. And this isn’t just for Gen Y.

Technology use for older generations is on the up. Now that emails go straight to our phones there’s no way to completely switch off after work. Research is showing that even the traditional family dinner is becoming extinct. Now the television blares on in the background and phones are left buzzing in and out of pockets over weeknight meals. Why ask about someone’s day when you’ve got a notification to check?

OUR DAILY DIGITAL ROUTINE

You wake up to your alarm. Which is most likely on your phone. Set in 10-minute increments to make you feel like you’ve had more sleep when you definitely haven’t, who needs a real alarm clock anyway – and how would you even use one if you had one?! Don’t forget to check the weather app before you get dressed… then sneak a quick look at your emails before you head out the door, forgetting to eat breakfast.

You drive to work. You get in the car and either chuck on a podcast or a playlist. Outraged by the idea that you might have to drive in silence for even a minute, you’re aggressively tapping a lagging song on Spotify while you drive off your street and it disconnects from your wi-fi and connects to 4G. You check for traffic alerts on your phone’s map app to make sure you have the best route sorted.

You get to work. Waiting for the coffee machine to work its magic, your thumb is on your screen, scrolling to get the morning fix, telling yourself you’re just catching up on the news. Sitting down at your desk, it’s emails emails, work work work, seven hours pass and you’ve stopped only to take a lunch break (where you were probably on your phone the entire time).

You arrive home. It’s time for the couch, the only place you want to be right now. You worked late so the mere idea of going to the supermarket is extremely taxing. Two taps on a phone screen and you’ve ordered food to your front door. You think for a moment about maybe reading a book, but no, the new season of Master of None can’t wait.

man checks phone on train platform

REDUCE YOUR DIGITAL

WAYS TO REDUCE THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN YOUR LIFE

Stop looking at your phone before bed. The blue-and-white light that your phones and laptops give off inhibit your brain from releasing melatonin: the sleep hormone. The light is associated with poor sleep quality and further symptoms of fatigue. Charge your electronic devices in the next room to stop youself from picking them up in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. You’ll enjoy better quality sleep cycles and wake up feeling way more rested. Maybe you’ll only need one alarm to get up in the morning!

Ban technology from the table. Whether you’re eating dinner with your family, out at lunch with a friend or on a date, put your damn phone away. If you’re expecting a call or have an irrational fear of emergencies, put it on loud and in your bag. If it’s important, they’ll call. Give yourself a chance to strengthen your personal relationships without a constant distraction.

Filter your digital fix. More than 40 percent of adults get their news from Facebook. Even though this can be a good way to stay up-to-date, finding out who’s recently broken up on the Bachelor isn’t exactly news. Download a news app to your phone and select some credible news sources that are relevant to you. Even though you’re still reading it on a screen, you can cut through all the noise. Reserve your updates to 10 minutes in the morning to keep in-the-know.

Make your free time, tech-free time. Depending on what you do for work, most office jobs require you to sit at a desk in front of several screens all day long. If your one-hour break is the only opportunity you have to go outside, why waste that? Try going for a walk a few days a week and come back to eat lunch at your desk, or take up a tech-free hobby to enjoy during your lunch break. You’ll be surprised how much 40 minutes of yoga or even 15 minutes of meditation can improve your attention span.

Top Tip Using your phone too much throughout the day? Leave your charger at home. You’ll need to ration out one full charge, forcing you to only get your phone out when it’s necessary. If you know you’re going to be in a doctor’s waiting room, bring your own magazine. If you’re waiting to meet a friend for coffee, try enjoying your beverage without looking down like a poor-postured zombie. Allow yourself an opportunity to enjoy your surroundings and reduce mindless scrolling.

Thanks For Sharing: The Social Gratification Syndrome

One in five of the minutes we spend online is on social media. Addiction to social media is like any other addiction. These platforms are a self-sustaining pleasure dispenser. The minute you post something… a photo on Instagram or a tweet to Twitter, each positive interaction that comes from that: likes, comments, reactions – releases Dopamine to the brain. Dopamine, the chemical associated with reward-motivated behaviour, is also what our brain releases when taking highly-addictive drugs.

A recent study by Harvard University, aimed at discovering why people are so willing to post their thoughts and actions on social media, discovered that disclosing information about one’s self-activates the same part of the brain associated with the sensation of other pleasures like eating food, getting money and having sex. The irony of it all is that social media isn’t social at all, especially when you’re constantly forgoing opportunities for actual human contact to be active online.

Megan VooBy Megan Voo