The International Center for Media & the Public Agenda was interested in students’ media usage and possible technology addiction. Therefore, they conducted a study for which they asked around 1,000 students between 17 and 23 years old from 10 different countries to go 24 hours without any technology. This meant no mobile phones, no Internet, no social media platforms and no television. The only things that the students were permitted to use were landline phones and books. Each student received a diary in which they could report their feelings during the 24 hours of technology abstinence. Combined, the students wrote around 500,000 words on this experience. Although there were positive reactions to being ‘unplugged’ for a day, such as re-connecting to family and friends, the feedback diaries were dominated by negative comments. Addiction was a repeatedly used term. Students felt lost, lonely, sad and depressed. It forced some of them to see how lonely and bored they were without technology. Media had become an extension of the students, it is incorporated in their daily routine structure and social life, and when the technology was taken away from them it felt like they lost a part of themselves.
This case study shows how technology can affect our brain.
The feelings that the students described when they got cut off from technology are similar to the feelings that smokers or drug addicts have when they go cold turkey. What can you do to prevent or stop this from happening to you? When in contact with technology, we usually multitask a lot. Every now and then, the brain needs some rest. Sleeping at night is not enough, it is important to take breaks from media devices during the day as well so that your brain will not ‘overheat’. Here are a few tips on how to avoid or help cure your technology addiction:
1. Get confronted with your media usage
We often have no clue about how much time we spend on our smart mobile devices. Getting confronted with these numbers can make you realize how much time you waste every day and it can be a motivator to spend less time on your devices. There are many apps, such as Rescuetime, that can give you a daily overview of what you spent your time on when you use your PC and how much time you spent on it.
2. Write down a list of offline activities for yourself
Try to list as many things as possible which you have been wanting to do for a while. This does not have to be an extensive bucket list, but it can also be something simple like cleaning out your wardrobe or playing a board game. Maybe it will cause you to regain interest in old hobbies, such as painting or roller skating. If you complete an activity from the list every day, you are not only avoiding technology addiction, but you will also be working on developing yourself.
3. Write down a not-to-do list
This requires a lot of self-control if you already have a technology addiction, but it can sure be effective. Try to make a list which will give you guidelines for your technology usage. For example, write down that you cannot check your email before 11 am. If you feel uncomfortable doing this because you receive many important emails, you can set up an automatic response email which lets the sender know that you can be reached on your cell phone.
4. Make it more difficult to gain technology access
Rearranging your furniture can not only be a good addition to your list of offline activities, it can also make you think about where to place your TV for example. Place your TV in a spot where it is difficult to reach or where you have to move or turn it before you can use it. These inconveniences can hold you back from watching TV. Try to think of inconvenient solutions for other media devices as well, to demotivate your usage.
To test if you are addicted to technology, I recommend doing the same as the students: challenge yourself to go 24 hours without technology. Whether you make it or not, it is good to be aware of technology’s addictive features and how technology use can affect you. For more information about this, I refer you to my other blogs.
Do you think you are addicted to technology? Why, or why not? Do you have additional tips to prevent technology addiction? Please leave a comment!