8 Signs You May Need Help for Problematic Technology Use
- You'd rather spend time interfacing with technology (e.g., playing games, using the Internet, text messaging, shopping online, or social networking, etc.) rather than pursuing other activities or responsibilities in life.
- When you're asked to stop playing or using technology, you are more concerned about letting down your online friends, than letting down those closest to you.
- You find creative ways to conceal, lie about, or hide your use from others--like getting up when others have gone to bed so you can continue playing without detection.
- Shortly after arising each day, one of the first things you do is get online, start playing, or check your messages.
- You engage with technology as a way of avoiding conflict and the negative consequences you might be experiencing as a result of your use.
- You previously found video gaming and technology use exciting and fun. Now you continue to play, but it's not as challenging and rewarding as it once was.
- People in your life are constantly nagging you about the amount of time you spend gaming, or using the computer, cell phone, or social networking.
- Regardless of the consequences, you tell yourself, and others that your use is a "lifestyle" choice.
Most problematic technology users deny their level of use is an issue. In fact, when confronted with the problems associated with excessive use, users continue to play, or engage with technology even in the face of academic dismissal, loss of significant relationships, or lack of employment, for example.
Studies show that between 8-10% of technology users are in need of treatment for problematic use.
It's also likely that most of your friends are gamers, or those closest to you use the computer for school or work. Technology use isn't the problem. Technology devices are simply delivery mechanisms-- like a syringe for heroin addicts. What is the problem, for some people, is the intermittent and reinforcing delivery system which stimulates, and intermittently reinforces brain neurochemistry. This process is highly addictive for certain individuals. Like other addictions, the brain may grow dependent on the dopamine rich and pleasurable activities the Internet has to offer. Real life may seem less rewarding.
Heavy media consumption may interfere with academic, work and family life. It's hard to maintain balance when the brain is focused on the rewarding aspects of technology use at the exclusion of other necessary aspects of life.
If these and other issues have been occurring for 3 months or longer, it may be more difficult to stop on your own without help. While unplugging for a period of time is always an option, it may be easier to control or moderate your use with support.
If the thought of changing your pattern of use seems daunting, or if you've been experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression unrelated to your use, you may need professional help. Reach out to those closest to you and talk to them about your concerns. Oftentimes, the people closest to you already know you have a problem with your use and may be willing to assist you in finding ways to balance your technology consumption.