By Victoria Moussot
March 28, 2017
Unplugging from technology is hard. It has our full attention to the point where it consumes our lives. We wake up in the morning and check for missed texts and emails. We look at Twitter, Instagram, and who liked us on Facebook before we’re even out of bed!
How did we get so addicted to technology? Have we somehow been trained, like Pavlov’s dogs? If you post on Instagram and someone likes your photo, you are rewarded by feeling good and this feeling motivates you to continue posting. Based on the Self-Determination theory, feeling connected to a group is a basic human need and essential to one’s well-being. This positive social feedback triggers the brain’s reward center. Interestingly, this heightened area of brain activity resembles the use of when substances like alcohol are used.
We all love our tech toys and our apps, from everything from Meetup to playing games with people from across the globe. Modern technology is fun and can be used for good, but it should not control your life. Your body can show physical symptoms of being addicted to technology, like Phantom Vibration Syndrome, which is the perception that one’s cell phone is vibrating or ringing when it’s actually not. Randi Smith, a licensed clinical social worker and Associate Professor of Psychology at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, explained that PVS is like a hallucination. A study found that nearly 90 percent of U.S. college students have experienced this phantom vibration and 40 percent have experienced this phenomenon at least once a week. This phenomenon is not labeled as being harmful or bothersome, but it shows how attached we are to our devices.
Our favorite pastimes include simultaneously using our phones with our laptop and watching TV. Kep Kee Loh and Ryota Kanai, researchers at the University of Sussex in England, have researched media multitasking and found that these habits negatively affect cognitive and emotional functioning ability. Multitasking with technology changes the structure of our brains by making the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with attention, smaller. Are you addicted to technology? Practicing technology mindfulness is a good way to prevent technology from dominating your life. Some ways to practice technology mindfulness include setting time limits for yourself, limiting the number of tabs open on your web browser, and resisting the temptation to use multiple devices at once.
Using technology has also shown to have a negative impact on our sleep. The blue light from the screens disrupts the natural sleeping rhythm. When we use our devices before sleep, the melatonin, a hormone that controls the circadian rhythm, becomes suppressed. At bedtime, this light increases alertness, stimulates our brains, and makes us less ready to sleep. The US National Sleep Foundation survey reported the use of late night technology leads to less satisfactory sleep. As a result, people are more likely to feel sleepy during the day. For those who have trouble putting down the screen before bed, like myself, it is advised to dim the screen as much as possible and change the blue light to orange tones instead. Also, it is recommended we avoid using technology thirty minutes before going to bed to let our brains decompress from overstimulation.