In this social media obsessed world, it’s common to feel anxious when an Internet connection is lost, but does that mean you’re addicted? We chatted to technology addiction expert Dr Marlena Kruger…
A smartphone supposedly makes life easier, but it’s also triggering biochemical reactions in our brains, feeding obsessions and addictions. In fact, there’s a large body of scientific research illuminating the dark side of the technology.
Finding the balance between tech abstinence and soulless immersion in our devices is a passion for technology addiction expert, Dr Marlena Kruger.
Founder of the TechnoLife Wise Foundation, Dr Kruger has studied the impact of the internet and social media on our brains and bodies – from toddlers to adults. She has developed the innovative, holistic Technolife Smart programmes, based on her trademarked Integrated Techno-life Balance System™.
Do you monitor the time spent on social media?
According to Dr Kruger, we slide down the slippery slope into the overuse of tech and social media when we are not conscious of why we are spending time in front of a screen.
“This happens when we are not monitoring our time in the virtual world, which is happening at the expense of us being in the real world.”
Signs of tech/ social media addiction
These are signs of technology over-use and addiction…
- You prefer screen time to real-life socialising
- You prefer screen time to physical activity
- You prefer screen time to taking care of your responsibilities
- You think, and tell others, that your screen time is the best way for you to relax
- You won’t disappoint your online friends by quitting playing, but you live with disappointing those closest to you because of your screen distractions
- You’re on your phone before you turn the lights out at night and first thing when you wake up
- Social media loves and likes are more thrilling than real-life approvals
- Social media slights and insults are more devastating than real-life disapprovals
- You avoid conflict and authentic conversations
- You are restless, depressed, anxious, moody or irritable when you are not online
- You experience your virtual world as bigger and more valuable than your real life
Sound familiar, but you’re not sure? Do the TechnoLife Wise self-test
What impact does social media addiction have on us?
“When we become too dependent on our online and global connectedness, our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health is compromised,” says Dr Kruger.
“We don’t exercise as regularly as we should to live a long and healthy life. Our best friend and constant companion is a device. We are connected to strangers all over the globe, but our relationships with the real people around us suffer. We spend more time reacting to social media postings than creating in the real world.”
How does social media addiction affect children?
Dr Kruger says that, when children spend too much time looking at a screen, they don’t optimally develop their social, emotional, intellectual and physical capabilities.
This means that they may grow up to be unhealthy, unbalanced people who are strangers to their parents in the real world.
Enslaved to social media
She says that when it’s unthinkable to tear ourselves away from our screens and just be, we don’t allow ourselves that space or time for self-reflection.
There are numerous neuroscientific studies that have chartered the decline of our critical thinking skills in the current tech age. It’s no coincidence that as we lose abilities to apply logic, reason and discernment, fake news is steeply on the rise.
“We have become slaves. We let others and the Internet or social media think for us, and we follow obediently. We are losing critical and creative thinking skills that have empowered us for millennia to solve real-world challenges,” says Dr Kruger.
Losing our humanity
Dr Kruger says that we are in danger of losing our human touch.
“We’re losing human fundamentals such as: having empathy; making eye contact with other people; expressing human values like having respect, love and honour for each other; integrity, trust and spiritual well-being. These skills and values are differentiating and guide us from becoming dumb and numb like zombies and robots, although they may have great artificial intelligence.”
How to break free
“When a click has the power to give us a real-life dopamine reward, we need to continuously ask the critical questions of whether I really need to check my phone or be online now,” says Dr Kruger.
She recommends asking yourself if the time you’re spending online is really adding quality and value to your real-life’s purpose, relationships, health and wellness? Dr Kruger says that you should ask if it is helping you live a balanced, healthy and happy life in the real world.
Dr Kruger says that we have the choice to cut down on our tech time and change our tech habits if they don’t serve us as a whole person.
“If we are not making wise choices and managing our time effectively, it is all too easy to become enslaved by tech and this will have a negative effect on health and well-being. Stress levels will rise and our relationships, productivity and physical health will decline.”
The burning question is are we going to follow the ways to take some time-out from our addictive devices, or are we haplessly going to merge with the machine?
Dr Kruger will be exploring this question in her upcoming CPD-accredited talk – Neuroscientific power of clicks – at the SACAP Festival of Learning in Cape Town (23-24 May) and Johannesburg (30-31 May). For more information, visit https://go.sacap.edu.za/psychology-festival-2019
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