How We’ve Become Addicted To Technology

Written By

Fiona Lam

Certified neuro-emotional technique (NET) practitioner and naturopath

How much time do you think you spend on your phone?

I used to spend a lot more time on my phone…If I was waiting for the tram, I would be checking my emails or if I was watching something on Netflix, I’d also be texting on WhatsApp and if I was having dinner with my partner I’d be scrolling through Facebook…I’m kidding! That one will get you into trouble…and so it should!

There are positive aspects of technology, but being distracted from being in the present moment is one of the things I find frustrating about being too attached to my phone, which is why I’ve made a conscious decision to change the way I use it.

…Then why do I still feel the need to check my phone??

If you relate to this pattern, read on to learn more about what happens psychologically and physiologically every time we pick up our phones.


Why We’re More Addicted Than Ever

In the last two decades, mobile phones have changed from being simple communication tools to sophisticated complex devices. It’s enabled instantaneous access to information, entertainment, and immediate communication through text messages and social media platforms causing people to check their phones for notifications, email messages, alerts and social media comments multiple times per hour. In fact, the average person spends over three hours a day on their device!

The habitual need to check phones has created a dependency and therefore people are finding it more difficult to be without them. It’s created a culture of connectedness in which users access their phones everywhere and at any time.


What’s The Harm Anyway?

Just to be clear, this isn’t a rant against phones, I believe they serve a purpose and have provided beneficial qualities to some of our lives. The concerns are more so related to excessive use of smartphones with the most widely reported issues being the relationship between problematic smartphone use and the severity of depression and anxiety symptoms.

There are several other studies emphasising an association of time spent on smartphones with lower grades, less connection to peers and lower self-esteem in adolescent students.


Mo Phones, Mo Problems

Anxiety associated with the use of smartphones can be related to the fear of missing out or (FOMO). People with increased FOMO might be compelled to check their social media more often in order to keep up to date on their friends’ plans and activities.

In fact, a study that examined relationships between technology use and psychiatric disorders discovered a link between anxiety and NOT being able to check in with various technologies.


How Addictions Are Formed

On a neurological level, dopamine is one of the main neurochemicals impacted by the effects of technology. Dopamine is responsible for several different neural functions including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking and rewarding.

It drives us to want, desire and search, it gives us our goal-directed behaviour which is why instant gratification from technology has become so detrimental.

For example, the anticipation of whether you have a text when you look at your phone will cause a release of dopamine, but the pleasure of anticipation doesn’t last long which is why people get caught in a dopamine-induced loop.

Dopamine causes you to seek, but once you’re rewarded it will only cause you to seek more resulting in a drop in dopamine levels.


I Can’t Be Bothered…

A study demonstrating the impact of dopamine depletion in rats showed that the rats lost their anticipation and desire for food even though they needed to eat for survival. Imagine that!

We can apply this concept to individuals with malfunctioning dopamine pathways that struggle to stay focused, motivated or feel happy.

Another relevant concept within the impulsive pathway of problematic phone use is decreased emotional self-control or emotional dysregulation. An addiction to the use of smartphones can be a part of their inability to regulate their emotions, or it can also be a distraction to deal with negative emotions as they seek for more dopamine release from instant gratification.


Three Ways To End Your Phone Addiction

1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind

This one might not be for everyone, but I found that turning off email notifications and deleting the Facebook App on my phone made a huge difference in breaking the cycle of mindlessly picking up my device. If I’m working on an important job, I would turn my phone on silent (vibration turned off) and either leave it face down or in another room. Just removing this disruption has drastically improved my productivity and momentum to complete a task.

2. Acknowledge & Accept

Firstly, I had to be self-aware in order to acknowledge the effects of my excessive phone use. The next thing I do after identifying any problem is asking myself, “Are you willing to work on it?” It is only when I’m willing that allows me to find the solutions to the problem. As I said before, I still get the urges to check my phone, but just being aware and allowing the thought to be there instead of reprimanding myself for it helps to dissipate the need to reach for my phone.

3. Align Your Actions With Your Values

We now know that dopamine depletion can be one of the causes of feeling unmotivated and unhappy…but I also know that I feel flat when I’m wasting time doing low-priority tasks that add little to no value to my life. I’m the happiest and most confident when I act on things that connect with my highest values. That is what gives me a sense of fulfillment and therefore removing the need for a quick dopamine fix on the screens.


Making The Connection

If you’re still struggling to feel motivated, you may require additional support to address any physiological / chemical imbalances. There are several herbs and nutritional medicine that are effective in elevating dopamine levels – but this is for your healthcare professional to assess, as with any prescriptions!

Are there any behaviours that you’ve been wanting to change? Sign up to 7 Steps To Overcome Fear and Win At Life to understand and dissolve the cause behind it now!


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