Smartphones have become a major part of our lives, allowing us to always stay connected to the world around us. However, constant connection can lead to bad online compulsions that can impact our mental and physical well-being.
Online compulsions can also be known as the excessive use of the internet, which can result in neglecting important aspects of life, including work, school, or relationships. Common forms of online compulsions include compulsive social media use, online gaming, and shopping.
Factors Contributing to the Development of Addictive Online Behaviors
The development of online compulsions is a very complex issue involving personal choices. One major contributing factor is the constant access to the internet that all smartphones provide. With the ability to access the internet at any time and in any place, the temptation to engage in compulsive online behaviour is always present and breathing down our necks. Smartphones often come with a variety of apps, such as social media and gaming apps, that are specifically designed to be fun but also very addictive.
These apps use tactics such as notifications, rewards, and constant updates to keep users interested for long periods. For example, social media apps may send notifications when you receive a message or when someone reacts to your post. Gaming apps may offer rewards or bonuses for logging in daily or for reaching a certain level. These tactics make the apps more appealing and even encourage us to continue using the apps.
The Dopamine Effect
When you first got your smartphone, you likely experienced a rush of ‘feel good’ emotions from using it. Whether it was catching up with an old friend or receiving a kind text message, these activities triggered the release of dopamine in your brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to create endorphins in our bodies. Our brains are wired to release dopamine when we perform actions that fulfil a survival need, such as eating or reproducing. Using smartphones can also trigger the production of dopamine in our brains, leading to feelings of pleasure and purpose.
During the early days of phone use, you might have engaged in mundane activities like scrolling through Instagram and looking at strangers’ photos. However, as you continued doing this thing, it stimulated the release of dopamine, and your brain started forming a connection between “cell phone” and “dopamine.” This wired your brain to crave your phone, seeking out brief dopamine highs. Consistent engagement in an activity that provides a reward will create a pattern in your neural pathways that your brain begins to regularly crave.
However, it has a downside: it degrades and fades off quickly, leading to a cycle of craving for more. As a result, the brain attempts to recreate any kind of sensation that dopamine provides.
Easy Access to Information
The development of online compulsions is also influenced by the easy access to information that the internet provides. With just a few clicks or taps, we can access an endless amount of information, entertainment, and social media connections. This ease of access can make it difficult to resist the temptation to engage in bad compulsive online behaviour, especially when we are feeling bored, lonely, anxious, or stressed.
The abundance of information and entertainment available online can make it difficult for people to maintain self-control and resist the urge to compulsively engage in online activities, such as social media, online gaming, or browsing the internet.
Effects of Online Compulsions
The effects of online compulsions can be destabilizing. They can lead to a range of negative consequences, including:
- Reduced productivity and performance at work or school.
- Poor physical health due to sedentary. behaviour and lack of exercise.
- Strained relationships and social isolation.
- Increased risk of mental health disorders.
- It’s important to note that excessive use of smartphones and the internet can also lead to the suppression of the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
Management of Online Compulsions
To effectively manage online compulsions, it’s essential to identify the triggers that cause this behaviour:
- Noting the time and reasons for engaging in compulsive online activities. Once the triggers are recognized, you can develop strategies to handle or avoid them.
- Limit your internet usage. To achieve this, you can use the APPLATCH app to set daily or weekly time limits for internet usage and you can also partake in activities that are very incompatible with compulsive online behaviour, such as exercising or socializing with friends and family.
- It’s crucial to prioritize self-care and address any underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to compulsive online behaviour. Engaging in regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and seeking professional help if needed are some essential steps.
The impact of smartphones on online compulsions has been widely observed by understanding the reasons behind these behaviours, their effects, and the strategies for managing them.
These steps we mentioned can be taken to curb their negative impact while maintaining a healthy relationship with smartphones.