Digital Addictions and Detoxes

Attached or addicted? It is not shocking that digital devices, especially phones, have become a crucial and fundamental part of daily life. Over ‘3.5 billion’ people use smartphones as of 2020. People have come to rely heavily on phones for many different types of aspects of their lives, from the mundane to the extraordinary. However, as people’s relationships with their phones increase, so does the concern of whether or not said relationships can evolve into a potential digital addiction.

What is the difference between a digital attachment and a digital addiction? Where is the line drawn between attachment and addiction?

The term ‘digital addiction’ is often employed as a general term that refers, but is not limited to, smartphones, social media, online shopping or gambling and gaming.

It is important to understand the difference between attachment and addiction. Having an attachment to digital devices does not necessarily mean that it is an addiction. Attachment usually refers to the heavy reliance on a certain object, in this particular instance, said object is phones. Addiction, however, usually refers to the toxic aspect of attachment, which usually affects an individual in a negative manner that may potentially cause harm; that may hinder and disturb the natural pattern of a person’s life. It can cause ‘anxiety’ and ‘impulsive’, ‘hasty’ and ‘compulsive’ behaviour.

Has the usage of technology desensitised the awareness of the attachment or addiction to phones?

On an average day, people would spend 3-4 hours on their phone daily. It may not seem like much but say an individual would approximately spend 8 hours sleeping, 7 hours minimum working, a couple of hours to eat, commute or drive to work and back, suddenly 3-4 becomes a lot. People have become so accustomed to the usage of phones; they have become desensitised to them. As people are so desensitised to their digital devices, it sometimes becomes difficult to pinpoint when an attachment becomes an addiction. Most people are not aware that their behaviour and characteristics have changed. However, research shows that there are impactful and significantly negative effects of the excessive usage of digital devices, such as phones. There are obvious behaviours that become evident of addiction, such as irregular eating patterns, constant absorption into the digital device, anger, lashing out, anxiety, insomnia due to irregular sleeping patterns and so much more. Digital addiction also impacts the individual’s relationships between family, friends and significant others. The goal is not to demonise usage of digital devices, such as phones, but to inform people of the side effects of the usage and the measures they can implement into their daily lives, to self-regulate their usage of digital devices.

What measures have people begun to implement into their lives to self-regulate and minimise the daily usage of digital devices?

Digital attachment and digital addiction have led many people – whom have become aware of the nature of their relationship to their devices – to take measures to monitor the daily usage of phones. People have resorted to replace their smartphones with an alternative device, called the ‘minimalistic phone’. The ‘minimalistic phone’ acts a basic, simplified alternative to the smartphone, without any stimulating and exploitive algorithms that encourage users to stay on their digital devices. Others have resorted to installing apps that monitor the time spent on their phone daily, such as ‘Moment’. ‘Moment’ monitors and records the hours spent in a day using a digital device, which allows the user to be self-aware and possibly minimise their usage. While others have chosen to go ‘cold turkey’ (podcast) and have resorted to ‘digital detox retreats’ to distance themselves from the temptations and stresses of the daily usage of digital devices.  These are all methods utilised to assist usage self-regulation to minimise digital device usage. However, without regular self-monitoring and usage self-regulations, these measures would be rendered ineffective; which is why these measures are useful to gradual ‘digital detoxes’.

What message should be taken?

Digital devices provide users with innovative and creative ways to do the things that people have always done – like reading, listening or reading the news, communicating, shopping and banking. However, it does not negate the argument that digital devices, in certain cases, can be harmful; regarding they ways the that users are utilising these devices. Users should aim to achieve and maintain a healthier relationship of the usage of digital devices.

Listen to the full episode of Think: Digital Futures: The Truth About Digital Addictions and Detoxes here.

Friday 9th of October, 2020

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