When we talk about addictions, we often think of vices like alcohol intoxication, smoking, illegal drugs and the like. What we fail to realize is how this condition has evolved as our technology progressed over the years. You’d be surprised to find out that a few of the habits you now have are already considered as an addiction as explained by science. Our obsession with social media is a perfect example of this modern-day addiction.
If you think about it, can you count the number of hours you have been checking your social media feed each day? Probably not because you are spending more time than you should be especially now with the Internet of Things where many tech gadgets are not interconnected to the web. Your smartphone allows you to log in to your various social media accounts and get lost in it for hours reveling in the new things you discover and all the likes you get from whatever you post on your wall. The feeling is surreal. It’s somehow similar to the high drug addicts get when they do drugs. It may sound melodramatic, but not. Science backs all these theories and it makes perfect sense considering how you can’t almost put your phone down even if you always tell yourself to reduce your screen time yourself.
Entrepreneur Network partner Ben Angel knows exactly why you can’t go a minute without picking up your phone. It isn’t because you’re lazy or a millennial with no social skills. Instead, it has to do with the basics of psychology and a term called “operant conditioning.” The concept is fairly simple: Your actions are influenced by the reward you received from similar, past actions.
For example, checking your news feed is rewarding. You connect with friends and people you admire, learn about the news and more. So, you associate your social media with a happy reaction, which leads to you wanting to do it more often.
While we may simply take the blame for our lack of discipline and time management skills and vow to resist the temptation of social media overuse in the future, it is not that easy to detach yourself from your tech gadgets and the mixed emotions you get when navigating the World Wide Web. Basically, your body reacts to an addiction similar to how you react to the way you use social media. You get exhilarated at the feeling of being liked by others (even total strangers) that you repeat the same thing over and over again until you can’t seem to do away with this habit. Psychology has an answer to this issue in the form of operant condition as what the post suggests.
Technically, “internet addiction” isn’t in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the manual which lists all classifications of mental disorders, because it’s too broad of a term, explains Kimberly Young, PsyD, clinical director for the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery. There are too many ways that people use the internet for clinicians to diagnose a blanket “internet addiction,” Dr. Young says. For example, you could be addicted to online gambling, watching porn, shopping, or playing games, but those are all very different activities that trigger different responses, and would require unique treatment plans.
That said, “internet gaming disorder” is listed in the DSM as a “condition for further study,” Dr. Young says. This is partially because there has been lots of research about the condition in other countries (like China and Korea) where gaming seems to be the heaviest or most dramatic type of internet addiction, she says. “That was a good thing that happened, because the fact that we were even looking at this gave internet disorders credibility,” she says.
Internet addiction is entirely a novel concept but it is gaining worldwide acceptance in the medical circle as experts now acknowledge its big impact on humans. The world that we know of today will continue to change as we embrace more technology into our lives. It is already happening even if we don’t notice it yet. Our preference for online shopping, use of various apps when doing things or getting services, communicating with others through gadgets, and much more are just some of the things that are a staple in our lives today that has all been highly influenced by tech breakthroughs.
However, the big problem with social media addiction is that we don’t see it as such since we derive so much enjoyment from it. Solving this problem won’t be a walk in the park either, so let’s all be vigilant and witness how this technology continues to unfold and influence our lives from today onwards.