Phone Addiction Causes Issues

By A.J.-Leilani Viloria

Phone addiction is real and many students experience it. Experts weigh in on impacts to focus, mental health and interpersonal relationships.

According to Healthline, a website that provides expert health guidance, in an article titled “How to Tell if you Could be Addicted to your Phone” from October 2019, the brain contains pathways that transmit the feel-good chemical dopamine when presented with rewarding situations. For some, positive social interactions stimulate the release of dopamine. Social media can do this.

The Healthline article continues, “Because so many people use their phones as tools of social interaction, they become accustomed to constantly checking them for that hit of dopamine that’s released when they connect with others on social media or some other app. App programmers are counting on that drive to keep you checking your phone. Some apps even withhold and release social reinforcements, such as likes and comments, so we receive them in an unpredictable pattern. When we can’t predict the pattern, we check our phones more often.”

Don Stewart, who teaching human behavior at CSN, states, “My anecdotal experience with students as well as some of my family and social contacts leads me to believe that smartphone addiction is a problem. Smartphones deliver sound bites and visual click bait on a regular and at times repetitive basis that interfere with personal interaction.”

Stewart adds, “Much of the electronic interaction is multi-sensory involving both visual and auditory interaction that is successful at completely interrupting interaction with people who are physically present. The disruption is often so complete that it requires multiple prompts to break the connection between the electronically connected person and their device.” What that means is some find it hard to simply sit at the dinner table and have a conversation with the people sitting across from them. The phones get in the way.

In a March 2023 article titled “What is Smartphone Addiction and is it Fueling Mental Health Problems” it says, “Problematic Smartphone Use is an everyday occurrence for many people. In a 2018 study … more than half of surveyed adults said they knowingly used their smartphone when they should have been doing something else with their time. More than a third said they lost sleep to smartphone use and 65 percent said they used their smartphone for longer than intended.”

Andrea Brown, a human behavior professor at CSN, shares her take on the negative effects. “Because we were all isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, social media became one of the main tools for keeping in touch with friends and family, and it also served as a distraction and source of entertainment. In my opinion, this form of connection became a substitute for in-person interactions.”

Brown says, “I believe that young people especially were robbed of important experiences that help them to communicate and develop valuable soft skills for the real world, because they were not attending in-person classes where they had to interact with their teachers, professors, peers, etc. so there is a bit of catching up that needs to happen.”

Brown also touched on the concept of FOMO, or the fear of missing out. She notes that FOMO is considered to be a common source of anxiety that makes it difficult for people to take a break from social media.

Bruce Luske, a sociology instructor at CSN, says, “Smartphones and social media have been generating more solipsistic isolation among many of my students over the past five or six years. It’s not unusual to see rows of students each buried in their phones and ignoring their peers. This phenomenon has all the features of a classical addictive process.  When separated from phones by parents, teachers, etc. for any significant time, irritability and impatience increases. This behavior is analogous to withdrawal from various drugs.”

He adds, over time students also have become less articulate when called on to talk to each other whether via school assignments or carrying out … tasks like grocery shopping that require some focus. In fact I think the ability to focus consistently on all manner of specific tasks has sharply atrophied over the past decade or so.”

“Students seem unable to connect from their electronic tethers,” Stewart adds. Becoming aware of this issue and the addictive element, is a first step.

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