02 Feb 5 ways your smartphone gets you hooked
Can you believe it’s 10 years since the first iPhone was released in the UK? Now 4 out of 5 adults own a smartphone. The impact of smartphones on our everyday lives and culture has been unprecedented, there’s no doubt that we have morphed into a ‘smartphone society’. Each of us tap, swipe and click on our phones a staggering 2,617 times a day! And for some of us, it’s more than an obsession. Phone addiction is a recognised dependence syndrome and a clinical addiction, which can also encourage narcissistic tendencies. 35% of people use phones in situations where they are banned, potentially for safety reasons, such as when driving. So, just why do we find our phones so addictive? We share five reasons why you’re finding it so difficult to put down your phone.
#1 Smartphone screens are designed to stimulate
Our smartphones emit a blue light continuously so we can read the screen, even in bright light. This is great for keeping us alert during the day. However, this blue light imitates sunlight which makes your body believe it’s always daytime. In turn, this process prevents the release of the hormone melatonin, which prepares the body for sleep. Therefore, using a smartphone keeps you feeling alert and less likely to want or need to put it down.
#2 Smartphones stimulate dopamine production
You may have heard of dopamine, considered to be the chemical released in the brain to make you feel pleasure. Recent research suggests that dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out and search, explaining why we compulsively check our phones when they buzz. The pleasure we feel when we receive a message from a loved one or a link to a funny video is addictive. As we don’t know when we might receive such messages, we continue to refresh and check compulsively.
#3 Smartphones offer variable rewards
Do you think it’s an accident or a choice that we get sucked into our phones? One of the key reasons why phones are so addictive is because the software and apps they contain are designed to be. Smartphones are the equivalent of a ‘slot-machine’ in your pocket. Tech designers maximise addictiveness by offering an incentive or reward. Have you considered why you keep ‘pulling down’ to refresh? Because your phone could offer you a prize in the way of a new email, ‘match’ or ‘like’.
#4 Smartphones initiate repetitive behaviour
This reward mentality encouraged by dopamine and addictive software ensures a repetitive cycle of phone-checking. We check our phones 150 times a day. How many of those times are subconscious? When we carry out a certain behaviour regularly, it gets logged in our neural pathways, becoming a habit when we do it without thinking.
#5 Smartphones support our ‘always-on’ culture
Do you find it hard to switch-off? 60% of people say a traditional holiday does not relieve the stress built up before their trip. By having our work emails on our smartphones, the ability to fully disconnect when we’re away from the office is near impossible. In fact, our smartphones have created a new social expectation – to be reachable at all times. And this goes for friends too. To the extent that someone being ‘last seen’ on Facebook or WhatsApp for longer than even a few hours creates a cause for concern!
You might be thinking that the odds are against you in terms of fighting phone addiction. And while it’s definitely difficult to break out of this addictive cycle, taking on a digital detox or one of our digital detox retreats will definitely help begin to adjust your learnt behaviour.