Now you might be thinking, “Well duh, Zulaikha! We are in the middle of a pandemic and my kids are doing e-learning. The only way they can stay in touch with their friends is through the internet.” I get that and I’m not knocking it. We all need to be safe and social distance at this time. However, let’s talk about what life was like before the pandemic and how it’s going to be moving forward in this age of technology so that you can put the phone down.
Technology has made things a lot more simple and convenient by the click of a few buttons, it has also driven us further apart.
The unhealthy detachment that comes from internet use is an epidemic that is affecting people more than they realize, especially our vulnerable youth. Tiktok has become our free go-to babysitter. Online gaming has become the go-to source of socializing and building friendships. And unfortunately, it comes at a big price. Most of the major social media sites and online gaming are designed to get you hooked. The longer you stay on, the more you crave it. The more you crave it, the more you use. The more you use, the more they profit.
The affect that the internet has on our nervous system is similar to what we see with drug use.
In large quantities like doom scrolling on instagram or gaming for several hours straight, we get a huge increase of dopamine and serotonin. Read more about it here. It’s the feel-good chemicals that makes us happy and energized. Naturally, we want things that make us feel good, so the internet becomes a superficial source of happiness and escape. People will keep using by doom scroll to the next video, and the next, and the next. Oftentimes we don’t even realize how much time has gone by. You might think, “Oh well? I’m just having fun and it helps me when I’m bored. What’s the harm? Does this really mean I’m addicted to the internet?” The harm is that you’re getting a rush of the neurotransmitters at such a high doses, causing your nervous system slows down its own natural production. Day after day of this, you start to burn your receptors from the overload of chemicals. In the long run, this means you stop naturally producing the good chemicals because you became dependent on the substance, in this case social media, gaming, internet. Naturally, you start to feel low, even depressed because you’re making less dopamine, so you seek that feeling again. With this cycle, internet addiction is born.
Other damaging effects of social media and gaming linked to internet and gaming addiction.
Young people are getting hooked on the “like” or reaction they get from their followers. This causes the same influx of dopamine serotonin. They rely on superficial relationships versus building real connection They might even become angry if their followers don’t comment of like their post. They start to mold themselves to be a version that gets reactions. What do you think this does to someone’s self-esteem? They internalize negative beliefs about themselves and their value. They get the message that their worth depends on other people’s approval, that it’s not okay to show my true self. Will they grow up to be confident adults? Will they learn how to present themselves at a job interview or learn how to think abstractly? Or worse, will they grow up to repeat the cycle with their own children, creating another lineage of socially distant and detached communities and internet addicts. What can we do about it?
Need help with your internet addiction? I’m a Nationally Certified Internet Addiction Coach serving across the US. Let’s talk.
Zulaikha Straight, MA, LPC, NCC, NCIAC, NCLC
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