This probably sounds familiar: You're out to dinner with friends, and everything's fun, until you get that itch. It's been 20 minutes, and you really want to check Facebook, or Twitter, or Foursquare or email. Forget about wanting; this is needing. You finally give in to the urge and sneakily check your phone under the table -- or fake an urgent visit to the bathroom, where you'll take a hit of the Internet while huddling in a stall.Anecdotally, our Internet use seems to have spawned real addictions. And according to several recently released surveys, we've got it bad.More than half of Americans would rather give up chocolate, alcohol and caffeine for a week before parting temporarily with their phones, according to a recent survey by technology firm TeleNav.One-third would give up sex, 22% would give up their toothbrushes (versus 40% of iPhone users, who evidently love their phone more than clean teeth) and 21% would rather go shoeless before separating from a mobile phone. Sixty-six percent sleep with their smartphones by their side.Our addiction is so severe that people described going 24 hours without Internet akin to quitting an alcohol or cigarette habit, according to a report from British company Interspersion.About 40% of those surveyed reported feeling lonely without the Internet, and 53% felt upset at being deprived. One person described unplugging to "having my hand chopped off."University students who faced a sudden Internet and media blackout began to display withdrawal symptoms, during another survey conducted by the University of Maryland.At least it's universal. One American said she was "itching like a crackhead" after going cold-turkey for 24 hours, and an Argentine student reported feeling "dead" without media, while a Lebanese student described the whole experience as "sickening."The students recognized that there are joys in life besides browsing the web and curating their social networks, according to the survey, but all nevertheless reported feeling distress, sadness, boredom or paranoia."Media is my drug; without it I was lost," said a British student. "I am an addict. How could I survive 24 hours without it?"One wrote: "Emptiness overwhelmed me." Another said he "felt incomplete."It isn't news that studies are finding that video games trigger dopamine releases in the brain. While Dopamine has a few uses, the one that matters here is how it acts as a reward system for certain things we do. For example, dopamine is released when we eat and have sex because the body considers those things to be necessary to our survival as a species. Certain types of video games have managed to pull the dopamine trigger as well. What else can do it? Pretty much anything we find stimulating. Nicotine causes dopamine release. So does Caffeine (in a somewhat indirect way). Like video games, we can develop a dopamine release from many kinds of addictive behavior. Checking email is one in particular. You may not like spending long amounts of time in your inbox, but you probably think about checking it pretty often. When you hear that ding (or vibrate), you know there's something waiting for you. To make things worse, because you do not receive email at set intervals and you don't know if that email is going to be something you want, your curiosity is piqued the moment the ding occurs just so you can find out if you've received something you want or if it's a waste of your time.
Why Technology Is So Addictive, and How You Can Avoid Tech BurnoutExpand Back when we were tethered to desktop computers, this wasn't such a problem. First of all, technology had yet to proliferate in society at the enormous level it has nowadays, but more importantly we didn't have little computers (read: smartphones) that we could stick in our pockets. Previously we might check out email at a few convenient intervals during the day. Now these tiny little multitaskers are requesting our attention wherever we go. We have many more opportunities...
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