Originally posted at: https://applyingmybeliefs.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/digital-addiction/
In my counseling work I am increasingly running into what seems to be called “Digital Addiction.” This is defined by the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as:
A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behavior.”
What have I seen?
These are actual examples from my work:
- A teacher was let go from their job because they spent too much time on Facebook. They admitted to using their handheld in class, and spending in excess of one and a half hours an evening on it. One of the presenting struggles was that they couldn’t seem to find time to grade their papers.
- A wife recently took the kids and left her husband. He complained that she went to have a bath every night and locked herself in, and spent the whole time on her phone; he said she ignores me and our kids and we don’t have sex anymore. He complained and condemned her and became very angry. She disappeared with the kids in fear of what he might do.
- A 13 year old boy swapped sexually oriented pictures with a 13 year old girl on Instagram. He was suspended (she wasn’t) and had his phone confiscated by the police. The matter is with Child Protective Services and others, to determine if this is a child pornography issue.
- A couple complained about their lack of intimacy, and their low quality sex life. Upon talking with them, we discovered that they go to bed early, but are on their phones checking email, texts and social media for up to an hour and a half – and wake up tired.
I have more of these, but I am sure you get the idea.
From my own personal experience I have noticed several issues:
- My use of Facebook. I used to have the app on my phone, but I realized that I would check it every few minutes, so I took it off about two years ago. Then they creeped me out by putting advertisements that directly connected with my preferences, likes and postings. I now look at Facebook for maybe 5 mins a day.
- I still check my phone frequently for text messages and emails. Partly that is because my counseling clients have permission to contact me that way. I have 3 major email accounts, so I feel a little stuck with this.
- I have inadvertently left my phone at home occasionally, and always turn around to get it. I feel naked without it
- When my wife and I are having quality time – which means just hanging with each other – after a while she picks her smartphone up to check her notifications, and of course she has to “like” everything or punch in her comments. I don’t like it, but I do tolerate it.
So what is to be done?
At this point in the history of this addiction there is not enough historical data to really answer the question well. But some of these things might happen:
- Government Legislation – It is likely that we will see some governments around the world try to get ahead of the Tsunami of mental illnesses that are appearing by controlling tech companies like Facebook and Google in an attempt to save their people, and their economies.
- User Rebellion – As we begin to see the serious damage being done to our children; parents will be taking action to stop their kids from being on their devices.
- Specialist Surgeons – There could be a growth in the number of surgeons that work on the so-called iNeck problems beginning to appear.
- Drugs – Because the addiction produces physical and psychological problems, innovative drug companies will be performing research to come up with drugs that combat the addiction. And, unfortunately, drugs that help people to stay awake/focus longer on their digital screens.
Here is an easy to read open-source (meaning no copyright issues) paper that addresses this issue and some of the fallout from it.
Citation: Peper, E., & Harvey, R. (2018). Digital addiction: Increased loneliness, anxiety, and depression. NeuroRegulation, 5(1), 3–8. http://dx.doi.org/10.15540/nr.
For those that don’t want to read it here is the last section of the paper reproduced in its entirety; it addresses some “what to do” ideas to decrease dependence on digital devices.
Strategies to Address Digital Addiction
From a biological perspective, health is the alternation between activity and regeneration. If you do not allow the system time to regenerate, neural degeneration may occur. Even though it is very challenging to break the addiction, it is possible. Mobilize your health and disconnect to allow regeneration. Take charge, regain social connections, and develop proactive attention.
- Recognize that you have been manipulated into addiction by the tech companies, which have covertly conditioned you to react to notifications and have created the desire to check frequently for updates.
- Become proactive by limiting interruptions when you work and play.
- Turn off of notifications of your apps so that they do not interrupt your work.
- Schedule time to look and respond to email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat and notify your colleagues that you will only respond to messages and information during prescheduled time periods such as 11 a.m.–12 p.m. or 3–4 p.m.
- Schedule uninterrupted time when you are most alert. For most people this is morning time. Do your creative concentrated work first and then answer social media during times when your attention and concentration has decreased.
- Turn off your digital devices during social events (e.g., dinner or talking to friends, coworkers, and family).
- Make an active choice to be present with friends and family.
- Make a game out of avoiding smartphone use. For example, when going out to dinner, have everyone place their phone in the middle of the table and make an agreement that the first person who touches their smartphone before dinner ends will pay for the entire meal.
- Create unstructured time without stimulation to allow the opportunity for self-reflection and regeneration. As journalist Daniel A. Gross (2014) points out, “Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, it appears, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.”
There is a simple aphorism that says: “Pay attention to shift intention,” suggesting that training related to better intentional behaviors may allow breaking the cycle of smartphone addiction associated with falling into the evolutionary trap of “mindless attention.”
Here is another relevant paper from 2012:
Does the Bible address this? Obviously not directly, but it is only a small stretch to perceive our use of digital devices as a form of worship or idolatry. In using these devices we are basically handing over our life to whatever we look at:
- News junkies are controlled by the news media.
- Porn addicts are controlled by their lusts – sexual immorality.
- Social media fanatics are controlled by others opinions.
The scriptures say this:
1 Cor 10:14 – My beloved, flee from idolatry.
When we are in our digital addiction behaviors we are most likely not paying attention to our first love – God.
Another spiritually oriented thought I have about this is this:
Gal 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In a new and unique way social media is a new form of sorcery or witchcraft. We are beguiled by this modern drug, and its pushers control the supply, using ever increasing appeals to our vanities to hook us. I haven’t really developed that line of thinking yet, but I believe it is a good way of looking at what we are seeing.
Having said all this, what do you think? Feel free to comment below.