It’s common to hear complaints that nearly everyone is addicted to the internet or technology in some way. People everywhere seem glued to their devices and seem to have difficulty disconnecting. This is creating a variety of problems from negatively impacting concentration and productivity to contributing to higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Accusations have been levelled at makers of devices, social media sites and video game producers that they are purposefully creating highly addictive products. In a way they are. But how do these technologies keep us hooked?
Addictive Elements are Inherent in Digital Technologies
Technology is typically designed to utilise basic human needs like gratification, connection to others and a sense of belonging. We get a dopamine hit whenever we accomplish a task on a video game or get a lot of positive reactions from a social media post. That hit is addictive and keeps us coming back.
Social networks, online shopping sites and games use other motivational and persuasive techniques to keep us coming back. This includes:
- Scarcity – Temporary availability of a product, snap, story or status.
- Social proof – Getting drawn to engage with something that is generating a buzz
- Personalisation – News feeds designed to filter and display content based on your interests.
Social media also promotes active participation with notifications and “presence features”, which keeps people notified of each others’ availability and activities in real-time. News feeds are designed to always provide new content to keep people engaged, with some akining the “pull to refresh” mechanism to the lever of a slot machine.
Most of these features have roots in our day to day life. Social media for example, hasn’t created a fundamentally new form of interaction. Instead it has amplified the ease, scale and speed in which these interactions can occur. Likewise, the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction we get from playing video games is an amplification of the satisfaction we might feel with accomplishments in life relating to work, studies or hobbies.
These technologies are giving us a higher dose of what makes us feel good in life. As a result, our tolerance is higher. The things in life they are reflecting just aren’t as engaging or satisfying anymore. We’re instead drawn back to these high dose technologies to get our fix. People using these technologies can eventually exhibit symptoms of behavioural addiction. This includes conflict and mood modification when they check their devices regularly. Often people feel the need to engage with their devices even if it is inappropriate or dangerous to do so.
Need to Talk to Someone?
Technology addiction might be tied to other issues such as anxiety or depression and it may be helpful to discuss the issue with a psychologist. At EDUCARE we can help children, teens and adults in addressing this issue related to technology addiction. Contact us for more information about our adult and child psychologist services.