The addiction digital , either with respect to a mobile , tablet or other electronic device, creates the same brain connections that opiates also generating loneliness, isolation and depression , concludes a study conducted by scientists at San Francisco State University ( USA) and collected by the journal NeuroRegulation.
Smartphones are a key part of most people’s lives, allowing us to be connected and informed at all times. The downside is that many of us are also addicted to the sounds, vibrations and other alerts of our devices, unable to ignore new emails, texts and images.
Now, a new investigation led by Erik Peper and Richard Harvey reveals that the excessive use of smartphones is similar to any other type of substance abuse .
“Behavioral addiction to the use of smartphones begins to form neurological connections in the brain in a similar way to how people who take Oxycodone experience pain relief, for example,” Peper explained.
In addition to that, addiction to social networks can have a negative effect on the social connection. In a survey of 135 students from the state of San Francisco, Peper and Harvey found that students who used their phones more often reported higher levels of isolation, loneliness and anxiety.
They believe that loneliness is partly a consequence of replacing face-to-face interaction with a form of communication where body language and other signals can not be interpreted. They also resolved that these same students performed multiple tasks almost constantly while studying, looking at other media, eating or attending classes. This constant activity leaves little time for bodies and minds to relax and regenerate, and also leads to perform “semi-tasks”, that is, when we start doing two or more tasks at the same time, but really half of what it should be compared to if we concentrated on one task at a time.
Experts warn that digital addiction is not our fault, but the desire of the technology industry to increase corporate profits. “More eyes, more clicks, more money,” says Peper. Automatic notifications, vibrations and other alerts on our phones and computers make us feel compelled to watch them by activating the same neural pathways in our brains that once alerted us to an imminent danger, such as a tiger attack or another large predator. “But now we are kidnapped by those same mechanisms that once protected us and allowed us to survive, for the most trivial information ,” he clarifies.
Not everything is negative. In the same way that we can train ourselves to eat less sugar, for example, we can also take the reins and train ourselves to be less addicted to our devices.
Change the pattern of use of technology
The first step is to recognize that technology companies are manipulating our innate biological responses to danger . Ideally, disable automatic notifications , respond only to email and social networks at specific times to focus on important tasks.
One of Peper’s students states that when he goes out with friends, everyone puts their phones in the center of the table, and the first one to touch them pays for drinks. “We have to be creative and focus on technology in a different way that still incorporates the skills we need but that does not take us away from the real life experience,” says Hinkle.