Experiencing a Digital Addiction – Here’s the Solution
Communicating and communicating effectively during puberty can be complicated, but frequent and frequent use of technologies like Facebook and social media can put the adolescent at a deficit, and leave them feeling disconnected from others and even unable to recognize their feelings.
In her latest book, “Life in Digital Times: An Addict’s Guide to Living a Creative Life online,” Rebecca Shapiro, author of three previous books on technology and addiction, argues that there are hidden costs to being connected all the time and binge-watching TV may lead to stress, particularly for teens and young adults. It can also adversely affect their social skills, self-image and feelings of empowerment. Shapiro shares more on the details.
When did you realize you were addicted to tech, and how did this behavior affect your life?
That I’m addicted to digital media isn’t a new revelation. Yet, in 2016, I became a digital addict. In fact, I also became an internet addict for the first time, too, and this was also the first time I opened a script that ran for 60 hours to a lengthy online training I offered a few years ago. I thought I would finish on time but ended up snoozing through it.
What types of activities were detrimental to your health, happiness, self-esteem and the quality of your life?
My addiction to digital media negatively affected my health and negatively affected how I felt. For example, I cut down on long walks and now alternate between 2-3 short walks a day that consist of only five or six minutes, and that I’ll only take at my apartment (no outside).
Thoughts about having a cable TV is great, the reality is that it drains so much more energy than its value. You have to take into account that it won’t go to waste, because people will never stop using it, and that it isn’t needed.
How could I connect with friends and family?
Yes, I could reconnect with people in person, but my phone and tablet don’t work well for this kind of communication, because they’re heavy and aren’t work-friendly.
If there was a way to get more and more time outside and have more unstructured, meaningful interactions with people, I could enjoy more healthy relationships.
What were the reasons for being really addicted?
Growing up, I was constantly connected to others on social media, and also to digital space in general. I could do nothing without social media or digital devices, and I felt disconnected from a lot of things. I think this impact could be especially serious for adolescents who have known from a young age to be connected to the internet, because that’s part of their identity now.
What should parents do?
One of the most important things parents can do, especially if they have children who are becoming tweens and teenagers, is talk to them about their feelings and needs as they feel them. You need to really look for ways to communicate with your child on a level where he or she feels that you understand.
Practicing mindfulness and focus and taking breaks from your screen, and reflecting on your interactions with others is one way to do this.
What did you learn when you tried cutting back on a tech activity?
I used to spend a lot of time on social media, and I became very distracted and didn’t feel like writing. I tried to tackle this addiction by cutting back on Twitter, then Facebook, and then YouTube. However, I didn’t really feel the results until I was experimenting with interval strategies.
Between long walks, 1-2 hour breaks from being disconnected from the internet, I was able to focus better, and finally feel like myself again.
While the strategies I talked about here are things you can do to see if they help, this is also an important message for parents. Don’t shut it down all at once. One of the reasons why I turned to mindfulness strategies while I was cutting back on screen time was that I thought, “If I don’t work on this addiction, how will I ever move past it?” If there is one thing I can offer to parents, it’s that it’s important to start now.
Click here to download the free report “How to Connect With Your Parents to Improve Your Life and Live a Connected Life.”