Science Can Explain Why We Get Addicted To Using Social Media On Our Smartphone (and how to avoid smartphone overuse)

It’s hard to believe, but it’s a fact – in the 21st century most of us are strongly addicted to their cell phones. The “nomophobia” which means fear of living without a cell phone, involves mainly problems related to internet use addiction.

Yes, it’s not the device we could become dependent on, but rather the applications and the internet access your smartphone provides.

study published in Frontiers in Psychology gives more specific information on this matter stating that people most often get addicted to social media communication apps available on their cell phones.

And surprisingly according to the research, the reason for that lies in the evolution of humankind.

According to professor Samuel Veissière, who is a cognitive anthropologist in the sphere of the evolution of cognition and culture, people have developed a strong need to observe others and be observed by others, throughout the course of their evolution.

He also thinks that humans’ social interactions are unique and require permanent contact with others because this plays a vital role in developing culturally acceptable behavior. Through interaction with one another, we become able to set goals and understand a lot of things about ourselves and the world in general.

In the study, Samuel Veissire, and Moriah Stendel, both researchers in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, discuss the fake social connection provided by smartphones, in the context of the evolutionary development of humankind.

The conclusion they drew was that the smartphone functions people most often get addicted to all have one common feature: they tap into our need to interact with others.

Here is why the leading researcher Samuel Veissière links the results to the humans’ need of social interaction:

“In post-industrial environments where foods are abundant and readily available, our cravings for fat and sugar sculpted by distant evolutionary pressures can easily go into insatiable overdrive and lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease,” “The pro-social needs and rewards [of smartphone use as a means to connect] can be similarly hijacked to produce a manic theatre of hyper-social monitoring.”

It’s not the smartphones that trigger a human’s addiction but the need for social interaction and the false idea we could satisfy it using the straightforward access to social media provided by the smartphone technology.

However is it possible to substitute real human interaction with remote (non-voice) contact with people some of who we haven’t even seen?

Here is a brilliant explanation provided by Roxane Gay:

“Social media is something of a double-edged sword. At its best, social media offers unprecedented opportunities for marginalized people to speak and bring much-needed attention to the issues they face. At its worst, social media also provides ‘everyone’ an unparalleled opportunity to share in collective outrage without reflection.”

Then why, even though we cannot receive real social interaction via social media, each time we reach our cell phone we feel the compulsive urge to check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat?

According to neurologist lene Ruhoy :

“Our mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway is stimulated when we connect with other people,” she says. “It makes us feel good; it makes us feel loved and cared for. And that feeds the reward systems of our brain, releasing happy neurotransmitters. It also feeds our soul. Smartphones allow us to get the connection—that rush if you will—quickly. And that, over time, allows us to get the ‘high’ feeling more often in a short period. And that becomes addicting in and of itself. So, in my opinion, it is both the connection and the smartphone in its capability of rewarding us in a shorter amount of time.”

And the worst part of all is that the overuse of a smartphone could influence our mental wellbeing negatively.

Here is some scientific data about it:

A study from Versapak stated that 51% of Britons are affected by “extreme tech anxiety.” And 41 % of them become anxious whenever they don’t have their smartphone or tablet with them. Here are the comments of Leon Edwards of Versapak:

“Being disconnected from technology is surprisingly stressful. There’s often a feeling of missing out, as we worry about what’s going on … without our knowledge.”

According to information provided by the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership passed 50% in 2012, and it was then when teen depression and suicide rate started to grow. The reason is that young people who spend more time using their phone are more prone to changes in brain chemistry. These changes could be quite dangerous and they could lead to increased suicide risk.

So, although we strongly desire social interaction and think we could easily get it by using the convenient smartphone apps this is not true. The mentioned above research proves that when using cell phones the opposite happens.

On top of that, the more social media apps we use, the more stressed and prone to developing dangerous conditions we become.

Then, is it possible to overcome the smartphone addiction and turn it into a beneficial relationship that doesn’t put your health at risk?

According to Tristan Harris, a former ethicist at Google, there’s a way of controlling how often and why we use our cell phones. He shared the following in a video published in the website Thrive Global:

“Scramble your apps regularly to create a pattern interrupt, so your thumb doesn’t get in the habit of going to the same apps.”

He says this way he is forced to make a conscious decision about what he is going to do on the phone, thus avoiding the meaningless scrolling on random apps.

But finally, the most important thing to remember is not to try to replace face to face communication with chatting on your smartphone. Indeed, social media communication could be beneficial when it comes to business and making arrangements, but you shouldn’t forget that it could never substitute the personal contact and interaction.

How often do you use your smartphone? Which are your favorite apps?

Please, tell us in the comments.

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