Addiction, which involves a compulsive and uncontrollable drive to seek or use a product despite its harmful consequences. It can be birthed by a confluence of these three factors coming together:
- An outside source of pain/discomfort too difficult to combat
- The presence of a product that provides relief from discomfort
- Environment (social factors, exposure, coping skills, pressure)
The notion of “screen time” is a relatively new one. We have been using screens for decades, but only recently have we started to talk about it in terms of addiction and overuse.
The reason is that our devices are more powerful than ever before. They are more capable of engaging our attention, as they are designed to do so. Our smartphones are always available in our pockets or purses, ready to be used at any moment.
There are two common ways to think about screen time. One is that digital devices are addictive, and the other is that they are simply tools we can use to our advantage, however, both could be on the extreme.
The first perspective frames digital devices as something that needs to be controlled or curtailed. The second perspective frames them as something we should manage more skillfully and strategically.
You might want to ask yourself ,”what do I really want from my device”?. It may seem like an obvious question, but it’s often not asked until it’s too late — when you’re already distracted and caught in the loop.
If you don’t know what you want from a device, then it becomes hard to make good choices or behavioral changes or even when to eliminate certain apps from your life.
In this article, I’ll focus on the less talked about perspective: Your screen time, or your fear of discomfort? Who is the real culprit?
As we all know, comfort is an illusion — it doesn’t exist in nature. A handful of us have been conditioned since early childhood to avoid anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or uncertain. While this has served us well in many ways, it can also be problematic if we allow ourselves to become too comfortable in our lives.
When it comes to screen time, many of us don’t think about what we’re doing to ourselves. We just want some entertainment, or a little distraction from the daily grind, and that’s totally fine. But what if there are other forces at play? Well, news flash, THE PRODUCT ISN’T THE CULPRIT!
Addiction is a word that has been misused and misunderstood in popular culture. It has become a catchall term for any behavior that people find difficult to stop doing, whether it’s having sex or playing video games or even eating.
But it isn’t just about someone being unable to give something up — it’s about their brain being unable to stop doing something even when it makes the individual worse off or has negative repercussions. In other words, addiction involves both behavioral and neurological changes.
For example, food can be highly addictive for some people—which is why so many people are overweight or obese. The same goes for exercise addiction (also known as “exercise bulimia”). While most people can enjoy these activities without any problems whatsoever, some people become addicted to them due to their vulnerability or environment—and in those cases, they can become really difficult to treat.
We need to treat screen time like any other activity that has potential downsides: by focusing on personal responsibility and moderation rather than abstinence, by educating ourselves about how it affects us and others around us. This simply means that the pleasure caused by a product or its experience is not the source of an addiction. Instead, the desire to avoid discomfort is what leads to an addiction.
What then are you running from, what’s the discomfort your extra screen time saves you from?
Addiction has not always been the need to get elated or happier; rather, it starts out from a desire to numb the agony of being uncomfortable at the time; this could be a quick way to avoid work stress, being in a toxic workplace, a bad scenario or the need to even distract oneself and escape reality.
This is why people moderate destructive behaviors and eventually overcome their addictions as harsh living circumstances change and they acquire healthier ways to cope with pain or stop trying to escape reality. This demonstrates yet again that addiction goes beyond drug usage.
Dealing with screen addiction is a complex problem, and we know that it’s not enough to simply restrict the use of these devices. We also need to look at the underlying causes of the problem. We need to explore what’s causing people in marginalized groups (such as teenagers, older people, people on low incomes, and those with mental health stresses) to feel so trapped that they’re driven toward excessive screen use.
When do you realize your screen time is eating you up?
- Your constant desire for instant gratification: This could be your safe space to escape your current situation even at the expense of your well being or health
- Fear of missing out (FOMO): The social media apps we use to communicate with friends and family often give us a false impression of their lives. We may feel that everyone else is having fun without us, or leading a more exciting or fulfilling life than ours. However, this isn’t usually the case. If we don’t check our perceptions, these feelings can be damaging.
- Recent studies have uncovered a link between excessive screen time and poor emotional regulation.
- Too much time spent on our devices can lead to an increase in one’s argumentative tendencies.
- People who spend too much time on the computer often have trouble completing tasks, this can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, which in turn lead to lower self-esteem.
- Long periods of time spent in front of a screen can decrease a person’s desire to explore the world around them & other life changing opportunities.
Practical steps to curtail your screen time
It’s easy to blame our screens for everything, but you can’t win a war when you don’t understand the enemy. After all, they’re right there in front of us, tempting us with the promise of a dopamine hit and making it incredibly easy to give in.
But what if we could understand the enemy more deeply?
The major step to dealing with screen additions is understanding what you’re fighting. Yes, you have to understand yourself first.
How does your brain react when you see an email notification? What about a text alert? These are questions that can help reveal what triggers you most strongly and why.
You might find that certain types of notifications trigger stronger reactions than others or that some types don’t bother you at all—and that’s fine! You just want to know what makes your brain light up so you can better deal with these problems when they arise rather than running into the hands of unhealthy reliefs.
Here are some practical steps to take;
- Productivity timers—such as RescueTime or FocusTime, which track how much time is spent on certain websites or applications and the amount of work done during a certain period of time—can help curb excessive screen time.
- You can also set notifications to alert you only when the app is opened, or disable them altogether. This will help you curb your device usage
- No screen time before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m: When you wake up in the morning, make sure you do not turn on your smartphone until your first task of the day is complete. The same goes for when you go to bed. Set aside time before bed to wind down, but do not use your phone as an alarm clock or while trying to fall asleep.
- Some people find it helpful to set specific time periods during the day when they can engage with their phones for work-related reasons and non-work-related reasons. Keeping your phones in another room while you sleep could also curb morning and nighttime scrolling as well.
- A good way to reduce screen time and improve relationships is to limit device usage during bonding times with friends & family. One way to do this is to sit around the kitchen table instead of in front of a TV while eating dinner together.
This way, rather than pinning something outwardly for making us yield to allurement, we can attempt to comprehend our own wellsprings of distress that pushes us to look for relief in unhealthy ways.