Opinion: We’re all addicted (to technology)

Francesca McKernon

Opinion Contributor

When we hear the word ‘addiction’ or addict we often think of the worst case scenario, which includes a general description of a homeless, disheveled person appearing nervous or jittery. While we are very quick to stereotype addicts, we are also victims of addiction through technology. Most people sleep with their phones next to them at night, while it charges, and use it right before they go to sleep. Then, the first thing they do when they wake up is check their phone before they even get out of bed. Psychology Today defines addiction as “a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.” Many people become defensive at the statement that we are addicts to technology, because it’s a personal attack on their ego. “I don’t want to be associated with those low lifes” an ignorant individual might say, not knowing that for many drugs are a form of a combined genetic predisposition to addiction as well as a traumatic childhood. Therefore, individuals use substances or perform behaviors to reduce their anxiety.

Some people may eat food when they are stressed, become hypersomniac, smoke cigarettes, drink, or go online. I notice that when I am in the elevator with a stranger, 9 times out of 10 the other person will take his or her phone out. We use our phones to cope with the anxiety and uncomfortableness of waiting for the elevator to get to our floor. In the hall, instead of making awkward eye contact we look down at our Instagram feed so we don’t have to endure the eye contact of an oncoming stanger.  

Social media is effective and therefore addicting, because it allows for users to receive constant positive reinforcement. When a user posts a picture of herself in a bikini and it gets 100 likes, the likes become positive reinforcement and reinforce the likeliness she will perform that behavior of posting again. Also, the system of instant gratification in the form of likes, hearts, favorites, retweets, and shares, regardless of content, will make that person more likely to post posts that receive high amounts of likes. Also, the rapid speed with which we can view posts contributes to the addicting habit of going on social media, since the internet has no bounds unlike the time it would take to find a drug dealer and purchase the drug.

During class, I notice some people’s need to check their social media extends into class and distract others that aren’t on their phones. I mostly get distracted, because I wonder if the teacher will catch students on their phones. I always wonder what is so important that they must be on their phones during the class that they pay thousands of dollars to attend.

Last weekend a few of my friends and I gave our phones to someone to see the effects of not being on our phones for 3 days. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more I interacted with those around me, including my other friends without phones. When eating breakfast, we all talked to each other, instead of checking our social media at the table. We didn’t record each other doing mundane things on Snapchat, and it eased my anxiety to know that I wasn’t constantly being recorded. Social media and technology creates a direct correlation with anxiety in teens today. The more we use our phones, the more likely we are to record each other or take pictures, making seemingly embarrassing things anxiety provoking.

I also noticed that our main source of knowledge comes is our phones. I remember asking my friend what the name of an actor was, and we struggled to remember, because usually we would just pull out our phones and look it up. Also, finding locations without the map app was difficult, because we base our lives off our phones. My friends and I never realized how dependent civilization has become on cell phones, and how before them people depended on physical maps, alarm clocks, newspapers, and the weather channel as their main source of information.

While some might still argue that phones are not addicting and do not cause the “detrimental consequences”  Psychology Today argues as a characteristic of addiction, I challenge you to not go on social media for 3 days. I was amazed to see how much happier I was not using Instagram and seeing couples boast of their love and anniversaries, unrealistic expectations of female bodies, or viewing Twitter’s negative rants. I was genuinely happier because I was not comparing my life to others through the lens of an iPhone.

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