We live in a digital world that has become heavily reliant on technology and the Internet. From communications to transactions to work meetings, we need our smartphones, tablets, and personal computers to stay connected. However, technology addiction is real, and it’s making people feel the need to be constantly “plugged in” to the internet. As a result, technology has disrupted our way of life. But just how much does technology addiction affect the brain? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Technology Addition?
Technology addiction is the inability to control, regulate, or limit the use of the internet and technology-based devices. It’s characterized by behavioral addiction where a person is highly dependent on the internet and technology to the extent that one feels as though they are missing out on crucial information by not being connected.
According to scientific research, technology addiction can affect our brain and cognitive health, and has the potential to cause:
- Social isolation
- Disrupted sleep
- Impaired emotional intelligence
- Heightened attention-deficit symptoms
While technology addiction isn’t listed as a mental disorder, it can have a negative impact on a person’s career, family, and social life, as well as academic performance.
Signs You Are Addicted to Technology
You can determine if you’re addicted to the internet and technology if you notice the following signs:
- Losing track of how much time you spend online
- Obsessive focus on the internet and digital media
- Neglecting your day to day duties/chores, school, social, or professional life
- Failed attempts to cut back on internet usage even though it negatively impacts your relations
- Poor nutrition and personal hygiene – failing to bath or eat to stay online
- Becoming defensive about how much time you spend engaged in online activities
- Turning to the internet to find pleasure, improve mood, or sexual gratification
- Experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, neck and back pain, dry eyes, sleep disorders, weight gain or loss
Types of Technology Addiction
Technology is vast, and depending on what you do, technology addiction can come in many forms. Some of the common types of technology addition include:
- Compulsive web browsing
- Addiction to pornographic sites
- Excessive texting
- Addiction to virtual relationships
- Excessive video game
- Spending long hours on social media
- Online gambling
Impacts of Technology Addiction on the Brain
Even though technology addiction isn’t classified in the same category as drug or alcohol abuse, it interferes with one’s lifestyle just the same way. Most people who rely on the internet find using it to be stimulating, which increases neurological changes taking place in the brain. Some people are addicted to getting “likes” on pictures they’ve posted on their social media accounts to the extent it stresses them out if they don’t get as many likes.
Internet addiction changes the way our brain works. It causes the brain’s gray and white matter fibers to shrink, leading to overall changes in brain function and how it processes emotions.
Research shows that technology addiction causes the brain to release dopamine, a brain chemical that influences our moods and feelings, whenever one uses the internet. Over time, the cravings for dopamine release increase, causing us to use the internet even more.
In the end, the brain is tricked into thinking that it doesn’t need to release dopamine naturally, which disrupts the brain’s chemical balance. The brain now starts to associate technology with the release of dopamine, signaling us to find technology and internet-enabled devices. This leads to what scientists call Internet addiction disorder (IAD).
Excessive use of internet-enabled devices can lead to the following:
Shrinking of Gray and White Matter in the Brain
As noted above, too much reliance on technology and the internet causes the amount of gray and white to diminish. Gray matter is responsible for helping us process information and make sound decisions. White matter helps with faster thinking and focus.
When these fatty tissues decrease, our focus, concentration, problem-solving, and decision-making become impaired.
Technology addiction is to blame for our failure to remember personal information like a friend’s or relative’s phone number, birthday, or passwords. Excessive internet usage and constantly staring at the screen can shrink the cerebrum and hippocampus, which are responsible for reading, learning, thinking, recognition, and long-term memory.
Laptops, smartphones, and tablets emit blue light, which has been found to interfere with sleep-inducing hormones. The brain then fails to interpret the internal light cues, making it difficult to differentiate between day and night.
As a result, sleep patterns become disrupted, which can lead to insomnia.
Closing Remarks on How Technology Adiction Affects the Brain
Technology addiction inhibits our ability to control impulsive behavior. No wonder you’re having a difficult time getting your child away from that computer game. If left unchecked, it can lead to poor social skills, weight issues, stress, and other health or mental disorders.
The first step in dealing with technology and internet addiction is recognizing that you have the problem. Once you are aware, you can try to limit internet usage or seek expert help for treatment options.