Our phones are meant to be addicting to us – but how can we break away?
47% of Americans are addicted to their phones, and the average person checks their phone every 12 minutes, or approximately 80 times per day.
Picking your phone up can become a habit as data shows that half of all screen time sessions begin within 3 minutes of the last. This is a habit that can be hard to break, especially when social media algorithms are built and designed to keep us on the platform for as long as possible. This is mostly done through recommendation algorithms, which collect data on what people are watching, clicking, liking, commenting, sharing, buying, and even where they are living. All of these factors are ranked to give you the content that shows up in your feed, which in turn causes our minds to release dopamine in response to stimuli from being on our phones.
For example, when you go to post a photo on Instagram, your mind is rewarded with the likes and comments from your friends. Over time this causes our brains to associate that feeling of validation and gratification with our phones, causing us to slowly develop an addiction to social media and our phones.
“Social media addiction primarily stems from the human need for connection and validation, with platforms providing instant gratification through likes and comments. This can be especially enticing for those with low self-esteem. Ironically, this addiction often worsens feelings of isolation and inadequacy, as users find themselves in a cycle of seeking validation online, yet feeling more disconnected in reality. The constant exposure to idealized content leads to harmful comparisons, impacting real-life satisfaction, relationships, and mental well-being,” explains Alexandrea Day, CEO of the Neurotech company MetaBrain Labs.
These algorithms, plus phones being addictive in general, and low self-esteem issues create the perfect storm of people who are dependent on and addicted to their screens.
Our phones serve as a portal to connect to our social world. Nowadays, we spend most of our time on cell phones, either texting, scrolling through social media or messaging friends. Previous avenues for socializing were places, now they are online. With younger generations growing up in an increasingly digital world, it means for many the only practical options for building a community outside of school is online.
“Social media addiction particularly affects younger generations due to their ongoing identity development, making them more susceptible to the influential messaging on these platforms. To address this, it’s important to foster critical media literacy, enabling young people to discern and evaluate online content critically. Additionally, nurturing open communication and support systems can help them contextualize their online experiences. Encouraging healthy online habits, like setting boundaries for social media use and promoting offline activities, is also crucial. While delaying the onset of social media engagement can be beneficial, equipping young people with the necessary tools and skills for responsible digital navigation is essential as they mature and their identities solidify,” Day shares.
Much like vaping, alcohol consumption, food consumption or drug use, our phones can be as addicting and damaging.
Day continues, “In terms of behavior and treatment, addiction to social media shares similarities with other forms of addiction, like substance abuse or gambling. The core of our treatment approach focuses on addressing and transforming the underlying self-defeating thoughts that fuel addictive behaviors. Although the process is complex due to the often interwoven nature of these beliefs, with dedication, individuals can shift their perceptions about themselves. By replacing negative beliefs with empowering ones, it’s possible to overcome various forms of addiction, whether it’s to social media, substances, or gambling. This transformation in mindset is crucial for effective and lasting recovery.”
To address social media addiction and phone addiction, MetaBrain Labs can offer people a solution. They take an approach known as mindset shifting, which differs from traditional methods in addressing phone and social media addiction.
“Our company’s methodology diverges significantly from traditional approaches in tackling phone and social media addiction. At the core of our strategy is the belief that our minds, which often react impulsively, shape our behaviors, sometimes leading to addictive patterns. Traditional methods typically focus on controlling or restricting behavior directly. In contrast, we emphasize understanding and transforming the underlying thought processes. We guide users to tune into their inner voices, uncovering the deep-seated “programs” that influence their actions. This could range from simple triggers like boredom, to complex issues such as a lack of familial acceptance and a deep-rooted desire for validation, especially critical during personal development phases. By identifying and reframing these thought patterns, we address the root cause of the addictive behavior, offering a more introspective and sustainable solution,” Day states.
The pervasive issue of phone and social media addiction underscores a critical challenge in contemporary society. This addiction, driven by a complex interplay of technology, psychological needs, and societal influences, is not just a matter of habit but a reflection of deeper emotional and cognitive processes. MetaBrain Labs’ approach of mindset shifting offers a solution, focusing on the root causes of addiction. By understanding and reshaping thought patterns, their method addresses addiction at its core, providing a sustainable path to recovery. This approach is particularly vital in an era where digital connectivity is ubiquitous, impacting individuals’ mental health and well-being.