Technology is so ingrained in our lives that it’s difficult to imagine living without it. Whether at work in front of a computer or at home on your phone, it’s becoming hard to put down our devices. This is a symptom of technology addiction, also known as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).
Though not officially labeled as a problem by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), health professionals have been interested in the possibilities of technology addiction since the early 1990s. What is Internet Addiction Disorder and how can you help you or someone you love.
Why is IAD a Problem?
A lot of the features in today’s apps (autoplay, in-app purchases, notifications) appear to be taking away a user’s self-control. Why wouldn’t we? Whenever we hear the ping of an alert, we reach for our phones, even if the noise didn’t come from ours. We have a desire to not miss out on anything great.
It’s one thing to need a device for work; it’s another to be on it at all times. This is an issue that affects those both young and old. When asked, 66% of parents think their teens spend too much time on their phones. Not to go down without a fight, 54% of children believe their parents are on their phones too often. If you look around, both these stats are believable.
Symptoms of IAD
The most noticeable sign of IAD is a change in a person’s behavior or mood. A person will check for messages or updates, often subconsciously, or they spend more time on social media than interacting with people they are physically around.
It’s hard not to see technology addiction as drug addiction. A lot of the symptoms are similar. Someone with IAD will feel a sense of relief or euphoria when using technology. When they can’t use it, the person becomes anxious and restless. A person with IAD will typically withdraw themselves from social activities or find no pleasure in them if they do participate.
To combat this, schools are implementing technology fasts that keep students away from their devices for periods of time. During these fasts, administrators have seen students display physical symptoms of anxiety, like shaking and sweating.
How to Cut Back on Addictive Tasks
For someone who doesn’t suffer from IAD, they can crassly say just to put down the phone. This usually comes from someone who is addicted to something themselves and don’t have solid ground to stand on, but that’s beside the point.
Devices tend to nurture dependence, even if they are helping. An easy thing to do is to turn off notifications for non-essential apps. It’s the immediate alert that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. If you can go about your day with the information that comes from the app, you don’t need notifications. Whatever is in the app will be there when you get to it.
The biggest culprit of this is mobile games. If you don’t play for a few days, the game will bug you until you do something. We can assume these tasks are incredibly unimportant and can wait for later, if at all. Along with the notifications are in-app purchases. This is when IAD takes on financial consequences. Little transactions add up, so if you were ever going to pay for a game, it’s better to do it up-front.