A recent study undertaken by Binghamton University, New York, has shown that women who constantly check their smartphones are more likely to be depressed. I’m not surprised by these findings at all.
According to the DailyMail, this is what the head of the department conducting the study had to say:
Our smartphones have turned into a tool that provides short, quick, immediate satisfaction, which is very triggering.
‘Our neurons get fired and dopamine is being released, and over time this makes us acquire a desire for quick feedback and immediate satisfaction.
‘This process also has contributed to developing shorter attention spans and being more and more prone to boredom.
‘I predict technology addiction will increase as technology continues to advance and application, game and gadget developers find new ways to ensure users’ long term engagement with technology.’
We live in an era of instant gratification.
Did you know that there are actually PhDs, out there, who are paid to concoct the most addictive ice-cream formulas that they can come up with? Every big food company tinkers with the content of their products, to figure out which perfect mix of sugar, fat, sodium, crispy texture, and glittery looks will get the most customers hooked. You know how when you munch on one potato chip, you feel this irresistible urge to have a second chip, than a third… next thing you know, you’ve emptied the bag of Lays in under 7 minutes? Well I’ve got news for you. These industrial foods were designed, through meticulous testing, to make you do just that.
It’s not limited to food either. Most apps, games or websites resort to exploiting our brain’s reward center to get us addicted.Technological advances simplify our lives, but they literally mess with your brain like a drug would. The moment we no longer have access to these sources of instant gratification, we become irritable and depressed (withdrawal).
A thousand tricks to keep you addicted
All activities that we perform on devices aren’t addictive per say, rather it’s the non-stop consumption of new information through digital means which is addictive. That’s just how our brains work: they find novelty thrilling and pleasurable. Evolutionarily speaking, we’re built this way to provide incentive for discovering new stuff. Because discovering new stuff often leads to unexpected rewards that are helpful for survival. Picture this: a caveman who would’ve ventured out into a new area of the forest – hence exposing himself to new information – might’ve uncovered berries to feast on.
Nonetheless, our brains haven’t evolved to deal with the constant flow of information delivered by TV, social media, or video games.
Indeed, online apps or websites have plenty of tricks up their sleeve to exploit your biology. Take Youtube, Facebook, or Netflix. Notice how when a video ends, a countdown automatically starts before the next video is being played (with or without your consent). This is referred to as Autoplay, and it’s designed to make you stay on the site by teasing you for more. News feeds work the same way: as long as you keep scrolling down, new content keeps appearing ad infinitum. Hence, they are bottomless pits of new information that flood our brains with dopamine, the “pleasure neurotransmitter.” It’s the same chemical that’s involved in cocaine or cigarette addiction, only in much higher doses.
Another concept that hooks tech addicts is referred to as “intermittent variable rewards.” To put it simply, we find it pleasurable when we perform an act that generates rewards randomly. It’s the secret behind slot machines. Sometimes you pull a lever, and you win money. Sometimes, you get nothing. And that’s thrilling. Well, the same stuff happens in your brain when you check your Facebook account to see if you’ve received new notifications (or not). Or when you check Tinder to see if you have a new match. Or when you check your mails or texts… etc. Sometimes there’s new mail. Sometimes there isn’t. Either way, it’s addicting to keep checking your phone.
We’re not done! Here’s another ingredient that’ll hook you up: social approval. When people approve of what we do or say, it feels awesome. Social media abuses the hell out of that trick, with“likes” or “upvotes” systems that are sure to keep you coming back for more. This leads to a generation of neurotic, validation-seeking youngsters.
All that stuff isn’t a conspiracy; companies simply test new ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. The addicting stuff is accidentally discovered when a method happens to work really well. They then proceed to keep it around to maintain a user base and make a profit.
What really makes me grind my teeth is the fact that parents are giving tablets and smartphones to young kids these days, getting them hooked on the stuff from the youngest age.
If you doubt that technology is harmful, spend a whole day in front of a screen, whether it’s social media, watching TV, surfing the internet randomly, playing a video game… and see how much of a lazy, irritated, depressed vegetable you’ll feel like at the end of the day.
Again, let me repeat that all activities that we perform in front of a screen aren’t addictive, rather it’s the non-stop consumption of new information through digital means that is addictive. You’ll be just fine if you only rely on your PC to write essays on Microsoft Word or use Excel. Or if you limit your social media access to a few minutes per day.
Instant gratification distracts us from meaningful endeavors
When technology is consumed daily for hours on end, it rewires the brain over time. You’re teaching your brain that being a couch potato who munches on Doritos and clicks buttons is more rewarding than being active and working hard for longer term rewards like acing a test, burning fat, becoming good at a hobby, getting a promotion… which leads to apathy and self-loathing in the long run.
That’s exactly what depression is.
I’ll let you ponder on the message below.
The good news is that depression can be cured, and you can definitely rid yourself of your addictions. I’ve compiled a guide on beating depression. Follow the lifestyle adjustments given in it and your mood will soon be leveling out.