Do you find that you frequently interact with the substance even when you said you were going to limit it or stop it all together? Do you make promises to yourself that you are only going to keep to a certain limit only to discover later that you have far exceeded it? Do you wish you could cut down on your usage? Does this substance consume a significant amount of your time and energy? Does the substance impact important areas in life such as your job, your finances, your friendships or relationships? Have you ever neglected important responsibilities due to the substance? Do you sometimes feel out of control when using the substance? Do you go through “withdrawal” such as feeling nervous, anxious, or on-edge when the substance is taken away from you or is not available? Have you ever worried about your usage or have you ever had a friend or family member comment on your usage? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have an addiction.
The paragraph you just read about was from a quick Google search highlighting some of the ways that someone can tell if they *may* have a drug addiction. I have been interested in addiction for several years and done quite a bit of personal research, so this obviously just scratches the surface, however, it does paint a stark picture doesn’t it? The exact same traits that we can find in someone who abuses drugs and alcohol are similar to what many of us find ourselves doing with technology on a daily basis.
During the spring months, there is a Christian tradition called Lent. Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter. During this time, it is customary for people to give up something which they enjoy or find pleasure in to remind them of personal sacrifice. Some common things people give up are: junk food, eating out, alcohol, and one of the most common ones in the past few years: SOCIAL MEDIA. However, it was soon discovered that many people who chose to give up social media and/or technology in general went through withdrawal symptoms in the same way as someone does when they give up smoking, excessive coffee drinking or drugs and alcohol. In fact, many professionals are contemplating opening up treatment facilities and programs for chronic technology users. In the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V which is used by mental health professionals including psychologists and psychiatrists) video game addiction was finally mentioned as a mental health issue. I believe it is only a matter of time before cell phone addiction will also grace the pages of this text book(if it hasn’t already).
Many people who face addictions have similar behaviours and mindsets, however, in my short time studying addiction, I have come to believe that everyone is addicted to something. People with addiction usually live in denial. I recently heard denial described as “Don’t even notice I am lying.” Basically people who are truly addicted don’t think their addiction is that bad. Many of them don’t even realize the devastation it is causing for those around them. It’s the same with internet and technology addiction. People may joke and say “I’m addicted to my phone” or “I’m a Facebook addict” but if you were actually to confront them on this many would backpedal and even become defensive. In fact, I was told once that this is the first step of identifying an addiction – if you’re not addicted you wouldn’t need to argue the point.
The six other monsters I introduced which preceded this final monster helped to flesh out a bit more some of the ways social media is addictive and what to do about it. Just a quick recap: the red monster of anger, the orange monster of insincerity, the yellow monster of fear, the green monster of envy, the blue monster of depression and anxiety, and the indigo monster of distraction. When we look at each one, we can also see that these are all common traits in someone who is going through addiction themselves.
Now, please note, as I said right from the beginning, not everyone who uses technology is or will become addicted just like not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. Many people are able to find a balance with work, social life and technology. Many people inherently know how to use technology well and productively so that it is purely for fun and recreation. Many people are able to turn their apps off and get a good night’s rest. But a vast majority aren’t. A vast majority find social media more stressful than pleasurable. Lots of individuals lament each day about the hours lost in “screentime” only to mindlessly scroll the following day. Please note: I am not sharing this from a judgmental pedestal, it is something I have struggled with in the past and I still have a long way to go before I am completely free of technology’s shackles as well.
However, as one fellow traveller to another, if you are worried about potential cell phone addictive behaviours, here are a few tips I’d like to leave with you:
1) Notice the times when you are drawn to Facebook and other social media. Are you scrolling or checking your phone just because you are bored? Are you trying to distract yourself from an otherwise upsetting event? Are you procrastinating from a project that legitimately needs to get done? Or are you simply on it because you’d like to have some fun and enjoy yourself?
2) Notice your emotions. Do you come away from social media feeling more angry at the state of world affairs, jealous of your friends, insecure, or depressed? Or are you genuinely able to put what you just saw online behind you and move on with the rest of your day?
3) The opposite of addiction is connection. Use social media to foster rather than replace real relationships. I do not disparage that there are genuine communities online. I am part of a number of groups and circles online focussing on many different helpful areas and sometimes despite not knowing the people in real life, I have formed friendships and even professional working agreements. However, be careful not to neglect friends in real life. Be careful to connect with other people in the day to day. If you’re up for a challenge, keep your cell phone in your room for a whole day and see how much more you notice and can take in from life.
I hope these rainbow monsters have been helpful in showing you some of the ways technology can adversely affect us. Technology in itself is not a monster, however, if we do not properly tame our minds and hearts when interacting with it we can become one. Please do something good for yourself today and be kind to yourself when using social media remembering that it is a tool and it is in our hands what kind of tool to make it.