Our clinical research on phone addiction and the claims behind it are still in their nascent stages. For instance, the claim that phones are “rewiring our brains” into being addicted to instant gratification has yet to be substantiated. Meaning, the studies suffer from a lack of vertical syllogistic evidence. However, that’s not to say that phone usage does nothing to us. Our phones distract us. Are you familiar with the story of Odysseus and the Sirens? According to Sparknotes, “The Sirens’ song is so seductive that Odysseus begs to be released from his fetters, but his faithful men only bind him tighter.” Get the picture? Life is our odyssey, we are Odysseus, and, yep, you guessed it—our phones are the sirens, beckoning us to an untimely death. Endogenous, or internal, distracts occur when we, the smartphone proprietor’s (although, these days, I’m pretty sure the phone owns us) thoughts lightly drift toward a smartphone related activity. This then sets into motion an otherwise unsolicited drive to use the phone.
Obsessive Phone Checking
Exogenous, or external, interruptions occur when we are prompted to use our smartphones by some environmental cue. In our case with the sirens, our phones are always calling. That’s to say that they are always attractive, but the difference between endogenous and exogenous is that the former is us internally telling ourselves that we need to use our phone and the latter is us being externally prompted by a notification or even the mere sight of another mobile device. Whipping out your mobile phone is the new yawn of this generation. You can even be triggered by someone mentioning a cell phone. This is kinda like Alexa, but instead of a smart speaker activation, it is you that goes boop-boop. These exogenous activation triggers can even go as far as hearing an activity that can be done on your phone (e.g. email, googling, texting, etc).
Digital Addiction and Performance
Even if we turn to our smart phones for one purpose (e.g. answering a push-notification), once our unchastened selves give it the time of day, we engage in a race to the bottom. We jump from activity to the next, on a domino chain of subsequent tasks that were unrelated to our initial purpose. The real harm, however, lies in the period of disruption and the deleterious effects thereafter.
Social Media Likes and Self Esteem
So, there you have it. Factually, you get high off of “likes” (or, at the very least, it feels good for the most part). Herein lies the problem of not knowing how to connect the dots. It is a thin line that scientists are having trouble crossing. We are able to tell empirically that phone usage, and, moreover, social media is giving us pleasure, but we don’t know the ultimate drawbacks from this high. If you remember, this image from an early iteration of cough syrup, you could begin to understand that just because something is issued as a publically sold good, doesn’t mean it is necessarily good for you.
With this new information that’s come to light, will there be an increase in the amount of parents comfortable teaching their kids about internet addiction? The parents today did not grow up with the tech of today. Their millennial progeny lived through Moore’s law. Simply put, processing speeds, or overall processing power for computers (including the little ones we keep in our pockets) double every two years. Now, even though parents may have had a cell phone or a computer, is that desktop box that shared a phone line really tantamount to the supercomputer lazily glowing in their child’s face?