We often hear the words addiction and detox used when discussing an individual’s use of tech.
Although I believe that impulsive or obsessive technology usage does have negative consequences to the user, I’m not quite comfortable with asking that it be added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).
I also will indicate for the record that I’m still thinking through these elements and technology is always changing…and changing society. If/when I’m wrong at a later date, you’ll see a blog post on the topic. 🙂
Yes, there are specific warning signs when we point to technology to identify possible Internet addiction disorders.
- Excessive Use – Technology is often used as an escape mechanism to relieve unpleasant situations or boredom. We often see this as individuals wait inline or in the elevator.
- Negative Consequences – Technology usage behaviors continue even after adverse consequences. I have a friend that stays up all night playing video games and it is really impacting her personal and professional life.
- Withdrawal Symptoms – The user values the eye candy of the device, and the ability to escape from reality. Limitation of technology often elicits feelings of moodiness, depression, or restlessness. I see this when my kids need to turn off the videogames for the day.
There are many reasons why I’m not quite ready to label this an addiction or use terms associated with addiction to describe situations and treatments. Even still, there is a need to dig deeper and try to make some sense of these components.
Information Technology Addiction
Sigerson, Li, Cheung, and Cheng indicate that a number of novel problematic behaviors have emerged in the information technology era and corresponding addictions have been proposed for some of these behaviors. To this point, many of these theories have yet to be tested empirically.
In the study, the researchers identify and test relationships across four common kinds of information technology addiction:
- Internet addiction – Young (1998) proposed an eight-item diagnostic questionnaire for screening this classification;
- Internet gaming disorder – Originally proposed as a subtype of Internet disorder (Young, 2009), is the first and only kind of information technology addiction mentioned in the International Classification of Diseases from the World Health Organization;
- Smartphone addiction – Those with a smartphone addiction show addictive symptoms such as functional impairment and withdrawal (Lin et al., 2014);
- Facebook addiction – Still no consensus on how to lump social networking sites together, although Facebook usage is similar to other kinds of information technology addiction (Ryan, Chester, Reece, & Xenos, 2014). This usage of Facebook is also unique as it allows for “real” and fake self-expression (Gil-Or, Levi-Belz, & Turel, 2015), it may be related to specific correlates such as motives for impression management.
The study by Sigerson, Li, Cheung, and Cheng also examined how information technology addiction was related to other behavioral addictions (i.e., problematic gambling) and substance addictions (i.e., alcohol use disorder). The findings suggest a spectrum approach, which conceptualizes information technology addiction as a cluster of disorders comprising not only shared risk factors and symptoms but also distinct characteristics. The findings also suggest that information technology addiction is more similar to other behavioral addictions than substance-related addictions.
Put simply, there is still a lot that we do not know about the impact of these technologies on individual users and groups. Many complementary and competing elements may be conflated in this label of “screentime” or “technology.” Lastly, there may be some answers as we examine behavioral addictions in our lives.
When we think about our relationship with technology, we need to step out of the waterfall recognize our own consciousness. We need to see the chaos and nature of these digital spaces and try not to be consumed by them.