Through technology mankind has been able to accomplish astounding feats. From landing on the moon to virtual reality, our society has been able to transform the way we live and act. We now have come to rely on technology to assist us in our daily lives, and while the majority of us rely on technology for different purposes, we all have one common problem with our technology. We are addicted to it.

clip_image002Modern technology is like a siren’s song, or an irresistible drug. We all find how difficult it is to get off of Instagram, how compulsively we check our text messages and emails, and how we all turn to search engines to solve our problems. Our dependency on technology is ludicrous; all of our movements and decisions are influenced by our addiction. While being addicted to a phone seems like a somewhat absurd notion, there is countless research done on addiction to prove that this addiction is very real, and it can have severe consequences on those who are addicted.

Dr Anna Lembke, a world-renowned addiction specialist and the chief of Stanford University’s dual diagnosis addiction clinic, calls smartphones a “modern-day hypodermic needle”. She also states that “we turn to it for quick hits, seeking attention, validation and distraction with each swipe, like and tweet.” We spend the majority of our time on our phones seeking stimulation, and with all the access we have to devices that stimulate us it’s no wonder we’re all addicts.

The main reason we are so addicted is because this stimulation we seek releases dopamine during the stimulation. To fully understand why our addictions are so severe, we need to understand the makeup and purpose of dopamine. Dr. Lemke describes that the function of dopamine is not to bring us pleasure, but instead it “motivates us to do things we think will bring pleasure “. As the brain’s major reward and pleasure neurotransmitter, it’s what drives us to seek pizza when we’re hungry and sex when we’re aroused. Scientists use dopamine to measure “the addictive potential of any experience,” writes Lembke. The higher the dopamine release, the more addictive the thing.” So obviously dopamine plays an important role in our natural brain chemistry and happiness. It’s the main reason people become addicted to a certain substance or act, so why is a cell phone addiction so bad?

clip_image004Like any addiction, a cell phone addiction can grow to a point in which it disrupts our well-being and our functionality. Extensive use of cell phones and other electronic devices messes with not only our brain chemistry but our value of life. Research done by Dr. Lemke shows that “obsession with instant gratification means we’re constantly living in our limbic brain, which processes emotions, rather than in our prefrontal cortex, which deals with future planning and problem-solving and is important for personality development.” Essentially this means that through our cell phone addiction we are starting a serious deficiency regarding problem solving and happiness.

This phone-obsessed generation is notably less happy than our predecessors, despite being the generation with the most access to entertainment and other dopamine releasing activities. This is backed up by research done by the World Happiness Report, which states that “Although we have endless founts of fun at our fingertips, the data shows we’re less and less happy,” she says. Global depression rates have been climbing significantly in the past 30 years. The causation of this is that through social media and other outlets of entertainment technology has provided us, we are not making ourselves truly happy, but instead providing ourselves with small distractions one after another.

Lemke says the way to solve this is very simple, yet more or less difficult varying on the level of addiction. Her solution is to lock the device you are addicted to (smartphones, gaming consoles, etc.) away for 24 hours. Dr. Lemke says that the first 12 hours will be the most difficult, but after the sense of “Real freedom”, you will gain insight into the relationship between yourself and these devices. The only way to ensure success after this is by resolving to fix the relationship you have with your phone. u

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