Habits we know are bad for us, like drinking too much, are usually the ones that command the most attention. But we don’t tend to consider that our everyday habits – scrolling through social feeds, gaming, watching TV – can affect us in similar, potentially addictive ways. We set out to find out whether our tech habits are no big deal – or whether we’re in danger of becoming addicted to our devices.
What is addiction?
Dependency on alcohol or illicit drugs is generally the first thing that springs to mind when we think about addiction. This kind of addiction manifests as a cluster of symptoms and behaviours that include a powerful desire to use the substance; an inability to control its use; continuing to use it despite negative consequences; and prioritising it at the expense of other pursuits, interests or obligations. Add to that an increased tolerance for your chosen poison and, in some instances, physical withdrawal when you stop.
But technology isn’t a drug, so can you really become addicted to it?
Patterns of behaviour can also be addictive – like gambling, for example. has broadened to include any kind of repetitious behaviour that has a detrimental impact on other areas of your life. And while the physical effects of compulsive social media use may not be as severe as those experienced by people with substance abuse problems, behaviours become addictive when we put them above other activities to the point where they affect our physical and psychological wellbeing and day-to-day functioning.
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When do our daily habits become a problem?
Does this mean we’re all addicted?
It depends who you ask. There’s conjecture among medical professionals as to whether compulsive tech habits like or are disorders in their own right or symptomatic of other underlying mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Which isn’t to say these issues don’t exist – just that there’s still a lot we don’t yet understand about these behaviours. And unlike narcotic use, regular device use doesn’t lead to addiction for most people. Still, even though everyone has their individual limits, it seems we could all be a little more conscious of our daily tech habits and their influence on our lives.