Addicted to Information

group of teens playing on their phones

Today’s modern technology addictions include being hooked on Internet surfing, obsessing over social media and being unable to put down the smartphone. At the heart of each of these is one addictive thing: information. If you struggle with spending too much time online, texting, updating your status or other modern tech diversions, you are probably hooked on information. Researchers have proven that these can be true addictions with symptoms similar to those experienced by drug addicts. They have also shown that there is a biological basis for this need for information.

Tech Addiction Is Information Addiction

When you stop to consider our modern tech habits, it becomes clear that information is the underlying commonality. The desire to have the latest information is at the root of our technology addictions. Think about the last time you checked a tech device. Why did you do it? You probably wanted to know something. If you use social media obsessively, you want to know what your friends are up to and if they liked or commented on your status. Maybe you have an issue with the Internet. With so much information at your fingertips, you feel like you need to look up every question that enters your mind. You might check your phone compulsively because you need to know if someone has texted you.

This need to know, to have the latest information, drives many of our tech addictions. Research has found that this drive to know and the ability to get information so quickly from our devices have created very real addictions. In one study, participants were asked to stop using all devices and information sources, including televisions and newspapers, for a period of 24 hours. In doing this, the volunteers started to display symptoms that were very similar to those seen in smokers trying to quit. They were fidgety and anxious and reported feeling like they were dieting or quitting smoking cold turkey. It was a real challenge.

Our Evolutionary Need for Information

Being so dependent on our devices is unhealthy. Some people develop habits that are so serious they need professional help to stop using social media or smartphones. We are vulnerable to becoming addicted to our information sources because of an evolutionary development in our brains. According to researchers, we have a basic drive to get information quickly. Dopamine, the pleasure chemical that is connected to drug addiction, is released in certain brain cells when we get relevant information. Because getting information is pleasurable, getting addicted to it is possible.

Researchers who found this connection explain it in evolutionary terms. As humans evolved we needed to make important decisions all the time just to survive. Making the best choices that would give us the greatest chance of survival required having relevant information. Our little dopamine hit encourages us to seek out relevant information. With tech devices and such readily available sources of information and our evolutionary drive, we become vulnerable to getting hooked on information.

This information addiction can become serious in some people who just can’t seem to stop using devices. It can get out of hand and cause other areas of your life to suffer. It is important to be aware of this vulnerability and to monitor your use of tech devices. If you feel like you might go through withdrawal or get anxious if you can’t access your phone or tablet, you might be developing an unhealthy addiction. Be aware of it and make a choice to cut back. Information is good, but too much can be unhealthy.

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