Smartphone addicted people are found to be the most depressed, anxious and lonely, according to a new research by Professor of Health Education Erik Peper and Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey at San Fransisco State University. The findings of the study are published in the journal NeuroRegulation.
The scientists added that overuse of smart phones is just like any other type of substance abuse. The downside of that convenience is that many of us are also addicted to the constant pings, chimes, vibrations and other alerts from our devices, unable to ignore new emails, texts and images.
"The behavioral addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief -- gradually," Peper explained.
Peper and Harvey note that digital addiction is not our fault but a result of the tech industry's desire to increase corporate profits. "More eyeballs, more clicks, more money," said Peper. Push notifications, vibrations and other alerts on our phones and computers make us feel compelled to look at them by triggering the same neural pathways in our brains that once alerted us to imminent danger, such as an attack by a tiger or other large predator. "But now we are hijacked by those same mechanisms that once protected us and allowed us to survive -- for the most trivial pieces of information," he said.
But just as we can train ourselves to eat less sugar, for example, we can take charge and train ourselves to be less addicted to our phones and computers. The first step is recognizing that tech companies are manipulating our innate biological responses to danger. Peper suggests turning off push notifications, only responding to email and social media at specific times and scheduling periods with no interruptions to focus on important tasks.
Two of Peper's students say they have taken proactive measures to change their patterns of technology use. Recreation, Parks and Tourism major Khari McKendell closed all of his social media accounts about six months ago because he wanted to make stronger face-to-face connections with people. "I still call and text people but I want to make sure that a majority of the time I'm talking to my friends in person," he said.
Senior Sierra Hinkle, a Holistic Health minor, says she has stopped using headphones while out walking in order to be more aware of her surroundings. When she's out with friends, they all put their phones in the center of the table, and the first one to touch theirs buys the drinks. "We have to become creative and approach technology in a different way that still incorporates the skills we need but doesn't take away from real-life experience," said Hinkle.