Next time you are on a train, in a pub, just a very social place, take a look around you.. Do you see any addicts around you?
Maybe you may see some drunk people, maybe even a drug addict! They should be ashamed of themselves right!
How about people on their phones? Are they addicted?
Of course not, you might think, I can’t get high by browsing through Facebook, chemical substances can never reach me via a virtual channel!
How many times have you taken your phone out of your pocket, opened Facebook, browsed through your news feed, without you remembering consciously making the decision to do that?
At least once, right? And, since you were not aware of it, why did your brain decide to do that? Why did it decide to move your arms and get that phone out of your pocket? What’s in it for your brain?
In any case, your brain must have anticipated some kind of reward, otherwise it would just stay lazy as it is.
But what’s the reward you get from browsing through Facebook? Do you get a special prize if you spend more than 2 hours on Facebook per day? As far as I’m aware, no such reward programs currently exist at Facebook.
What your brain does get, is a rush of dopamine. Everytime someone likes one of your marvelous holiday photos,, comments on your impressive profile picture, or likes one of your hilarious statuses, you get a little dopamine high.
And even better, you don’t get the high when looking at your actual notifications. You get it some moments before when your phone starts buzzing and you see on your screen that something happened in your marvelous online life.
Well, everyone loves a bit of dopamine, we can’t really live without it. But can this have adverse consequences?
Suppose you would have to live a week without your phone, maybe even just a day? What kind of feeling do you get whilst reading this sentence? One thing it’s probably not, is a feeling of bliss or indifference.
Every moment you spend in your virtual social life, distracts you from the moment you are having simultaneously in the real physical world.
For instance, significantly decreases the quality of your conversations. How many times were you more actively involved in a conversation on your phone than the one that was happening in real life?
Now you might not see being distracted from conversations as that bad, but what if it makes you distracted from a car heading straight to your direction? You would not be the first person to be ran over by a car because of a comment on your vacation pictures!
Besides that, it is really hard to be unhappy these days now isn’t it? What a shame!
The moment we feel bad, we take out our phones and start looking for confirmation on social media.
Well why not? If it makes you feel beter?
But does it? Any emotion we would regard as negative, is a bit like a body guard, it is meant to make you aware of something that’s damaging you in some way, and helping you to resolve it.
Now how would you ever resolve your troubles by just compulsively sharing selfies?
We define addiction as “a compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences”. Do you think the situation layed out above satisfies these terms or not?
And, of course you think this probably does not apply to you, but maybe you “know someone” who fits the description perfectly.
I don’t want to be too pessimistic though, that’s why I also have good news!
This predicament we are in is actuallyincredibly easy to solve!
Any addiction works in a very simple way: you are triggered by something (e.g. you feel a bit lonely), you have a reward you crave (e.g. having some social confirmation), you do a certain action (e.g. opening Facebook), and you get the reward (e.g. someone likes your recently posted selfie).
Now we can’t really eliminate the trigger can we? It’s safe to say you might at least feel lonely again at some moment next month.
What we can change however, is the action we take to fulfill the craving inside. Resulting to zombie-like Facebook browsing will only make things worse.
Instead, next time you have this feeling, think about what triggered it, what made you come to this feeling in the first place (e.g. are you lonely because you had a fight with someone)? Take an action to resolve that underlying issue, and you will have satisfied the reward you craved so badly in a long-term valuable way.
And this way, you will not turn into a zombie!
Thank you for making it all the way to the bottom of my post. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic ain the comments below. Tell me what you agree on, and especially on what you don’t!