Are we addicted to the device?

Do you find yourself picking up your phone first thing in the morning? Maybe leaving your phone on the table at dinner, or worse, at a restaurant? Perhaps you’ve noticed it around you, where someone will pick up their phone to send a text mid conversation? And those people who put their phone upside down?! So magnanimous.

It’s incredible the strength that our phones have over us. We can’t exist without them anymore. LIFE will stop if we forget our phones. Perhaps it’s not even the device, but what’s on it that counts. Not so much nowadays are people concerned with the latest iPhone or the latest whatever (I mean, not as much as the days where one had to upgrade to the latest Bluetooth Sony Ericsson so they can send their mate a Basshunter tune) but it’s all about who can get the most likes on Facebook, or followers on Instagram. The irony of me posting this on social media.

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You may have heard of dopamine. It controls the pleasure parts of the brain. It is released when we gamble, drink, smoke or have sex (and probably more things), and it is addictive. Social media also releases dopamine. In a world where we seek instant gratification, dopamine rewards us for seeking said gratification. Want food? Deliveroo. Want to see what your mates are up to? Facebook. Want a date? Tinder. Everything is instant these days, and when we have achieved our instant gratification, we get a hit of dopamine and hence we seek out more and more. It becomes increasingly difficult to put your device away in the hope that you’ll get a new text, email, or Facebook like.

Not only is the device addictive, but it encourages some, let’s say mental mistakes. Everyone likes to think they can make rational decisions, but they can’t. While there are any number of fancy sounding terms for different mental f*** ups, I’d like to draw your attention to one called The Availability Heuristic. A man by the name of Steven Pinker at Harvard University released research to show that we live in the least violent time in human history. Many people will debate this and refuse to believe it. “But all I see on Facebook is terrorism and violence, so how can this be true?”

Voila, the availability heuristic.

Not only is this the least violent time in history, it is also the time where information is most widely available. Probably worst case, news of a stabbing in Thailand will take a day to reach my newsfeed. That wasn’t possible 100 years ago. This is where the instant gratification comes in. We can’t put our phones down for two seconds for fear that we will miss out on an important news story that most likely has nothing to do with us, nor is there any way we can exact a response that will help the situation.

That’s just one example of how the instant information available through our device can conflict our view of the world. I am guilty of it myself sometimes, albeit I am trying to be better, but not long ago I deleted most social media. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter. I thought the world would stop spinning. Reality check, no one cared. In fact nobody cares generally as much about your Instagram likes and followers as you do. Very recently, and only for a short while I de-activated my Facebook in an attempt to harbour more concentration and productivity. It helped, a lot. I almost found myself with nothing to do except what I didn’t want to do, I.e., my work. The device is very handy for procrastinating, and very bad for productivity.

I have kept my Facebook, for fairly obvious reasons at this point, but I would like to see myself thinning it out a little. Deleting people who’s values disagree with my own. For example, I find myself getting annoyed at some muppet’s opinion on a certain topic, and here I am talking about ignoring these exact type of people. The same principle would apply to this blog, or in fact just about anything on social media, if you don’t like it, don’t follow it. I’d also like to really sit down and go through all the weird pages I followed in 2012. You know those ones that have something supposedly really common as their name and bombard you with useless crap? (I went on Facebook at the time of writing for an example here. “Thinking if you raise your phone 6 inches in the air u will get better signal”, that shared a video of some weird device to aide snoring, and asked, “tag someone who needs this lmao”. WTF.)

What I’m getting at is that while the devices we use can be very useful for getting information and staying connected, it’s important not to focus on information or connections that slow us down, decrease our productivity, or straight up piss us off. The device is addictive, and a lot of people probably know that, but next time you are out and about, see how many people do some of things mentioned at the beginning of this article.

People often say that young people are terrible for their phones, which they are. However, I notice a lot of older people doing the exact same thing. Not only does the device distract us from our relationships with our friends, but they are distracting parents from their kids. A photo went viral where a kid was asked, if there was one piece of technology that you wish was never invented, what would it be? The child replied, “mobile phones, because my mum is constantly on hers and she ignores me”. That child is the same person sitting across from you while you are texting over dinner.

Image by fotolia by Adobe

Focus more on the information you can utilise and gain knowledge from, rather than information that you are concerned about, yet have no control over. What the Kardashian clan call their next baby might seem like something worth concern. It is not, nor do they care about your opinion of said name. Your addiction to the device fuels their income and thus, we have to read more s*** about them. It is a constant cycle of crap that is not within our control.

Oh, and next time you go for coffee and the person you are with takes out their phone in the middle of the conversation, smack them in the face. Or leave, whatever works for you.

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