A new study of the dysfunctional use of smart technology finds that the most addictive smartphone functions all share a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect with other people. The findings, published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggest that smartphone addiction could be hyper-social, not anti-social.
“There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic,” says Professor Samuel Veissière, from the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, Canada. “We’re trying to offer some good news and show that it is our desire for human interaction that is addictive — and there are fairly simple solutions to deal with this.”
We all know people who, seemingly incapable of living without the bright screen of their phone for more than a few minutes, are constantly texting and checking out what friends are up to on social media.
These are examples of what many consider to be the antisocial behaviour brought on by smartphone addiction, a phenomenon that has garnered media attention in the past few months and led investors and consumers to demand that tech giants address this problem.
But what if we were looking at things the wrong way? Could smartphone addiction be hyper-social, not anti-social?
Professor Veissière, a cognitive anthropologist who studies the evolution of cognition and culture, explains that the desire to watch and monitor others — but also to be seen and monitored by others — runs deep in our evolutionary past. Humans evolved to be a uniquely social species and require constant input from others to seek a guide for culturally appropriate behaviour. This is also a way for them to find meaning, goals, and a sense of identity.
Together with Moriah Stendel, also from McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, Professor Veissière reviewed current literature on dysfunctional use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens. The researchers found that the most addictive smartphone functions all shared a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect with other people.
Healthy urges can become unhealthy addictions
While smartphones harness a normal and healthy need for sociality, Professor Veissière agrees that the pace and scale of hyper-connectivity push the brain’s reward system to run on overdrive, which can lead to unhealthy addictions.
“In post-industrial environments where foods are abundant and readily available, our cravings for fat and sugar sculpted by distant evolutionary pressures can easily go into insatiable overdrive and lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (…) the pro-social needs and rewards [of smartphone use as a means to connect] can similarly be hijacked to produce a manic theatre of hyper-social monitoring,” the authors write in their paper.
Turning off push notifications and setting up appropriate times to check your phone can go a long way to regain control over smartphone addiction. Research suggests that workplace policies “that prohibit evening and weekend emails” are also important.
“Rather than start regulating the tech companies or the use of these devices, we need to start having a conversation about the appropriate way to use smartphones,” concludes Professor Veissière. “Parents and teachers need to be made aware of how important this is.”
more recommended stories
Social networks can support academic success
Being friends with those who get.
Teens must ‘get smart’ about social media
New research indicates that social media.
Social media stress can lead to social media addiction
Social network users risk becoming more.
Frequent use of social media may compromise teenage girls’ mental health by increasing exposure to bullying and reducing sleep and physical exercise
First study to examine three mechanisms.
Researchers find WhatsApp can be good for our health
Academics at Edge Hill University have.
The influence of social media and children’s food intake
New University of Liverpool research, published.
Data show no evidence that teens’ social media use predicts depression over time
Results show that social media use.
Negative experiences on social media tied to higher odds of feeling lonely
Positive interactions on social media are.
Social media use increases depression and loneliness
In the first experimental study of.
How rants on social media can come back to haunt you
UC Davis study finds that negative.