We can form addictions to our phones, here's how
Technology is fascinating, and its evolution is even more mind blowing. Thirty-five years ago, Motorola released its first cell phone, and its size was just shy of a shoebox. Now we have quarter inch slivers of glass that can detect our facial emotions and allow us to talk face to face with people on the other side of the world. We have access to pretty much anything at the touch of our fingers, making the retrieval of global news nearly instantaneous. It serves as our alarm clock, calendar, voice recorder, compass, wallet and much more. Yet, despite all of these amazing benefits and much like many other technological advances, it comes with some setbacks. There seems to be a rapid growth in cell phone dependency across all ages, especially in the United States. Little did we know before doing a little research, but humans can actually develop an addiction to their phone. The following is our deconstructed explanation on how this is possible.
Throughout time, humans have evolved to seek survival. Many things that we confront throughout daily life trigger a survival response in the brain, which is how we develop certain behaviours. When we move towards a feeling of survival, our brains release the hormones dopamine and oxytocin. We can think of dopamine as the chemical taxi that transports chemicals between neurons. Dopamine helps regulate our movement, attention, learning and emotional responses. It not only contributes to the feeling of satisfaction and pleasure but enables us to see potential rewards and go after them. Oxytocin influences social interaction and sexual reproduction, meaning it plays a huge role in maternal attachment. When people hug, kiss or feel love, oxytocin is released in the brain. When our brain releases these chemicals, an imprint is made in our neural pathways, creating a memory and triggering a positive emotional response. These happy chemicals trigger the building of neural pathways, so our brains seek these good feelings and work off of them.
We spend nearly all day on our phones. From watching YouTube to scrolling through Facebook, to texting your crush and seeing the latest viral puppy video, our brains are constantly releasing these survival chemicals. Weird to think of our phones as a form of survival, but truly our brain doesn’t know any different. The addiction to our phones is as valid as a drug or sex dependence.
So, should we worry about where this is leading us? The answer is… Yes! Let’s consider some of the ramifications of increased cell phone use. Texting and driving has become one of the leading cause of motor accidents, and the numbers seem to be rising. In an age where almost everyone owns a car, inevitably we are going to see these numbers increase. If we can’t put down our phones to have a conversation, why would that stop us from pulling out our phones to text when driving? A phone can impair our ability to drive just as much as alcohol or any other drug can, but of course that doesn’t stop people from doing it. In addition to increased risks while driving, and decreased social skills, constantly looking at your phone can have a negative effect on posture and therefore your respiratory system and even your emotions.
How do we stop it?
Turn off your phone. When you know you are meeting up with another person, set your phone aside or leave it in the car. Put down the phone during mealtime, no one appreciates someone else being on their phone at the dinner table. And please, if you are having a conversation with someone, give them your full attention. No matter how much we want to believe it, there is no way to fully focus on anything if our phone is in front of our face.
Remove social media apps from your phone. Sometime we find ourselves pulling out our phone and going to instagram, as if it were an innate behaviour. There are times where we even pull out our phone, get on it and think, “what are we doing on here?” By deleting certain apps, you can eliminate this behaviour, and with time you’ll find yourself mindlessly navigating through your phone a lot less.
Don’t bring your phone to bed. Sitting on your phone late at night can become a vortex and you run the risk of losing sight of time. Before you know it, five hours have passed and you’ve ended up stalking your cousins ex girlfriend, the entirety of her group of friends and have scrolled through your feed 100 times. The same goes for when you wake up, allow your brain some time in the real world before tending to your virtual realm.
Finally, a great way to break sticky behaviours is to do some mindfulness training. Each time you pull out your phone, ask yourself, “why am I turning to my phone?” If you are doing it to mindlessly wander, maybe set it down and find another distraction. If you do end up succumbing to your phone, ask yourself how you feel after. Did the interaction with your phone bring you some sort of benefit? If not, consider trying to put some goals in place to help you eliminate this unnecessary phone time. Putting down your phone seems like a nearly impossible task, but with time, you will see the world around you in a different light. You’ll feel more engaged in your relationships and may even find a few new hobbies. Technology is a beautiful thing so let’s find a way to love and use it without abusing it.
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