How Technology Addiction Impacts Our Lives and What We Can Do About It
By Matt Brennan
In a crowded movie theater. Right before bed. When we’re supposed to be listening to family. It doesn’t matter where, or when. We check our phones compulsively because we think there might be something positive there for us on the other side – something life-changing.
That thought shoots dopamine and other feel-good chemicals into our brain and a habit is formed. The designers of your favorite tech hardware and apps know this and they build in ways for you to consume more content, and spend more time on their platform. They do this through variable reinforcement, much like a slot machine. Too little reward, and you stop trying. Too much reward and you won’t pull the lever as much.
Now think of those notifications on your phone. When the ding goes off, or when we see a little red bubble, we feel almost obligated to check and see what the message is. The quest in technology optimization is to find the right ratio to keep you coming back for more, and it’s working.
Americans on average check their phones more than 52 times a day. College students can spend upwards of 9 hours a day on their cell phones. Addiction activates the reward sensors for the brain and pulls us out of the present moment. It starts in the first few moments after we wake up and it nags at us until we go to bed. There are precious few moments during the day considered too sacred to check your messages.
An overuse of phones and other modern technology can leave you feeling anxious or depressed. It can make you feel extremely distracted and restless. Long term, it can contribute to obesity, or give you severe eye problems.
What Can You Do About It?
We assume you like your phone. It’s pretty amazing harnessing the power of your desktop computer right there in your pocket. You don’t have to ditch it at all to keep usage in control, but instead set up certain boundaries.
Understand Your Usage – It takes some awareness of what your phone and technology habits are, to be able to break them. How many hours a day are you on the phone? Apple is now keeping track of your screen time for you. It can help to review this on a daily or weekly basis.
Optimize Your Tech for You – You can shut off all unessential notifications. You can move the most distracting apps to the furthest screen back on your phone, so they are that much harder to access. You can delete them off your phone entirely. Set up your phone to be an asset to your productivity, and not a distraction.
Meditation Can Help – When you can train your attention, you can more easily control it. Meditating for 10-20 minutes a day can help you learn how to train your attention in this way. If you need a little assistance to get started, apps like Headspace, Calm, or Buddhify can help.
Set Up Boundaries – Another way to take back control over your attention is to set intentional boundaries. You can choose to keep your phone in a different room at night, or designate regular “phone free” times in your home.
Technology addiction is an increasing phenomenon. These actions can help you to take back your attention and become more intentional with your time and productivity.