Digitally Addicted: Brains on Screen

If you are blindly dependent on your phone and feel panicky when it’s not around, you may be addicted to it. Your connection to your phone or any device may be because of an e-mail, social media updates, chats, browser tabs or any other possible reason but the constant consistency of checking it every alternate minute and not letting it leave your mental headspace is one of the signs of your addiction to it. Studies have shown that at an average, a person spends 4 hrs on his/her phone daily. This excessive digital rut has enslaved people to their devices and the more time they spend online, more are they addicted to it.

Like a moth to a flame, the internet is a big candy store supplying dopamine loops. Dopamine is a brain chemical that causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. The digital consumption of the instant gratification through social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter seems to excite us, over stimulate us and at an extreme irritate us to take on negative behavior. ‘Like’, ‘Comment’, ‘Share’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Emoticons’ are the wolves in a sheep’s skin, playing a role contrary to their real character. We are gradually moving towards the ‘attention economy’, where every move of ours needs social approval for our satisfaction like changing the profile picture on social media. We, social creatures, thrive on gossips and feel the need to be aware of the events of everyone’s life and incidents happening around us. The pings of notifications are the self-made survival traps. Pressed towards negativity and further towards ‘phoneliness’, people lose control over their actions and they can’t stop themselves from engaging even when they are aware of their wrongdoings. We appear to have lost the ability to simply be alone with our thoughts.

Though the use of social media is free of cost, the tech companies manage to charge us more than minimal. Based on the data gathered about us through our likes and dislikes, they sell the same to the advertising companies. As we excavate this we learn about the web trap of Information Exhaustion, Filter Bubbles and False news as explained by Hany Rizk in his article, I’m a digital addict and so are you’. Information exhausting meaning the extraction of our preferences through our website clicks is a common phenomenon. Once our preferences are known, keeping a track of our choices, blocks and the content left unread, they silently filter our process and present us with the content we want to see leaving everything else. This is the Filter Bubble. And so after all this is processed, we are presented with facts possibly manipulated to our best understanding i.e. the false news.

One of the major setbacks in the digital world is on our health (mental, physical and social). We are constantly struck by FOMO i.e. fear of missing out. The anxiety level increases by missing of some social event or not being able to connect with people over Facebook tags or memes. We damage our body by constantly sitting in a position that is comfortable to the device but at the same time causing ‘tech-neck’, a tacky term used to define the neck pain caused by excessive use of technology. And socially we are affected because of the virtual relation created with people instead of actual ones. We feel connected through a Whatsapp message but in reality, we are miles apart and the gap leads to unsatisfied relationships.

The National Institute Of Health conducted a research at Milan University with 60 male and female volunteers with an average age of 25 years. After surfing the internet for 15 minutes, the digital addicts suffered from negative mood swings similar to those experienced by drug addicts. This negativity leads to harmful behavior, thus causing destruction to oneself.

There’s no denying that the online world has blessed us with the instant availability of information and has many perks but while consuming the perks we often overlook the harmful side-effects of the same. Though it’s tempting to not let go of this silent addiction, when we look at the bigger picture, we find that there’s more to lose than gain. Some are aware of their addiction, while others choose to ignore. No one can force it, only you can.

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