Technology is growing at a rapid rate and changing different aspects of our lives. The majority of people make use of at least one piece of technology daily, whether it is the internet, social media or our smart phones. Devices and gadgets have become a gateway to all sorts of virtual worlds. As a consequence, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is greater than ever and instant gratification has become the rule by which we live. "The result is that we have grown into addicts, technology addicts, which ultimately have an effect on our body, mind and soul," says Dr Marlena Kruger, founder of MindUnique Education.
Addiction, according to medical research, is a chronic brain disorder. These cravings develop when the pleasure system in our brain is hijacked. The pleasure circuits are taken captive and the result is that nothing else can get messages to the pleasure system, except the addicting substance or behaviour. Says Marlena, "When we are being overstimulated, as is now the case through high-tech gadgets such as powerful computers with access to the internet and multiplayer gaming, gambling, pornography, smart phones, and social media, we also become dependent.
Research has shown that overstimulation of the brain's pleasure centre has the potential to do as much damage as addiction to any major drug." All addictions, cravings or dependencies, whether chemical or behavioural, have certain characteristics in common including salience, mood swings, compulsive use, tolerance and withdrawal. And just like drug or alcohol addiction, bad habits and misuse of substances can destroy your life, the lives of loved ones, your relationships and your job, so can technology addiction.
If you want to check whether you are misusing technology and it having an adverse effect on your wellbeing, your relations and your self-esteem, answer yes or no to the following questions.
1. Are you preoccupied with the internet? Do you think about your previous online activity or anticipate the next online session?
2. Do you need to use the internet more often to be satisfied?
3. Have you tried unsuccessfully to control, cut back, or stop internet use?
4. Are you restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop internet use?
5. Do you often stay longer online than what you have originally intended?
6. Have you jeopardised or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the internet?
7. Have you lied to family members, a therapist, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with the internet?
8. Do you use the internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression?
If you have more yes than no answers, it is probably time for some serious introspection. "Even though technology has many advantages and has in many instances changed our lives for the better, we still need a holistic approach in order to be healthy and happy. Remember, there is nothing wrong with a good old walk in the park, a personal conversation with a friend, or watching the stars instead of television," Marlena concludes.