Most people don't like admitting being addicted to anything. Addiction implies weakness, a dependence on something, the need of an external force or substance to keep life fun, exciting, bearable, etc. And when we think of the term “addiction”, we often relate it to various forms of substances – drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Too much of any of those can be dangerous to one’s health and are sometimes related to or are the cause of death.
Rarely, however, do we relate technology to addiction or any subsequent tech addictions to our health. Truth be told, though, tech addictions can also be very detrimental to your health – mentally, if not also physically.
I, for one, once suffered from a fairly serious case of insomnia for roughly two years. My addiction to technology wasn't what started the insomnia – a third-shift job with full-time schedule at college can be attributed to that. But there is no denying that technology prevented me from getting over my insomnia sooner. I would literally spend hours every night laying in bed browsing the Web from my phone or tablet, tweeting, Facebooking or playing games.
As I explained in the past, the bright displays of various gadgets (smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions, etc.) prevent the release of the sleep-inducing chemical, melatonin, into the brain; thus, the brain and person do not get tired as they naturally should when the sun goes down. I would eventually fall asleep every night, when I could no longer hold my eyes open, which was usually after 4:00 AM and rarely before 8:00 AM.
But insomnia is only the tip of the iceberg. Addiction to technology can cause a multitude of problems, like back and neck strain, "BlackBerry thumb" and depression. A Vitals column on msnbc.com from mid-May revealed that depressed people spend more time chatting online, creating the first link between depression and excessive use of technology. The study didn't conclude that there is any particular correlation between depression and time spent online, just that there is a definite link between the two.
And the need to constantly be online can lead to disorders, such as Internet addiction disorder (IAD). (Note that IAD is not yet recognized as a real disorder.) On Friday, Mashable's Matt Petronzio wrote:
"Studies show that addiction to the Internet can cause the same type of social problems as other established addictions, such as gambling.
…IAD can be characterized by excessive use, feelings of withdrawal and negative repercussions, such as arguments and fatigue."
Petronzio explains that social media addiction is one of the more common subdivisions of IAD. Researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business performed a study on 250 participants, "fitting them with devices that logged nearly 8,000 reports on their everyday desires." According to the study, checking social media accounts for updates and notifications is a far more difficult habit to break than tobacco or alcohol, says Petronzio. And he also mentions phantom vibration syndrome as one of the four biggest "tech afflictions" and notes that 70 percent of heavy mobile device users suffered from phantom vibrations.
All of these are signs that you could be addicted to tech. And as harmless as that may sound, it could be much worse than it may seem.
I am fully aware that I am an addict. I never leave the house without two phones in my pockets and my "nerd bag" (a Powerbag Deluxe filled to the brim with gadgets). For fear that one of my phones may die before I make it back to a stable power supply, I carry a backpack with an internal battery and two spare battery chargers. I also have a spare phone inside the bag, just in case I can't charge one of my phones with the bag and need an extra charge in a pinch.
But that isn't all. I have a compulsive need to continually check both of my phones every couple minutes. I refresh Twitter, Facebook and Instagram hundreds of times throughout each day. Then I double-check from the other phone to make sure something didn't go wrong. Obsessive? Maybe. Addicted? Most certainly.
At the risk of sounding like a recovering alcoholic who just finished downing an entire case of Budweiser in a single sitting, I'm in total control. I can stop at any time, as they usually say.
Yesterday, for instance, I spent most of the day out in Winston-Salem with my lady friend. Aside from the two pictures I posted to Instagram and a few text messages I sent, I didn't use my phones. I turned one off and put it in her purse and the other remained in my left pocket for the majority of the day. I didn't tweet, I didn't check my Facebook and I didn't text anyone until almost 9:00 PM. I only used it for streaming Spotify and taking a couple pictures.
This is how most of my off days go anyway. I like to disconnect so that I don't completely lose my mind. So, yes. I'm most certainly addicted to technology at least five days out of every week. But I can (and do) take a step back when possible or necessary. When I start feeling down or having trouble sleeping, I turn off my devices and walk away (or lay down).
But I'm curious, guys and gals. Are you addicted to mobile tech? Do you constantly find yourself checking your phones, ignoring people and never feeling content with just a quick glance at your notifications? Do you feel it affects your health in any way? Could you walk away at any time? Sound off and share your habits or addictions in the comments section below!