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Are you a digital addict?`

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The topic for this column is a serious one. We are talking about digital or internet addicts. This is generally defined as a person whose interaction with technology or online media is excessive and dependent, and usually results in the negative well-being of the user.

Are you one? Do you feel anxiety when separated from your smartphone? Do you constantly check your phone when you have five minutes? Do you sit and wait for a response to a message, or comments or responses to your posts. Are you unable to travel long distances without your tablet, laptop or smartphone (and let’s not forget a pair of headphones)?

Do you interrupt face to face conversations to respond to a message or an alert? If yes – you are reflecting symptoms of digital or internet addiction. Did you know that dopamine – a neurotransmitter chemical that provides a “feel good factor” in the brain, has been proved to be triggered amongst internet addicts? For example, when hearing an alert regarding a response from your device. This is the same high created by using illegal drugs such as cocaine.

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Studies show that at least 10 percent of regular digital or internet users will become addicted. This results generally, amongst other things in symptoms such as impatience, mood swings, secretive behaviour, withdrawal and an inability to control craving or interact with real issues like face to face communication and activities such as exercise and studies. Worst case scenarios is the dangerous usage of digital devices whilst driving for example – where one in 8 American teenagers have confessed to being in a car when the driver interacts dangerously with their device – be it texting or responding to a social network alert – whilst driving.

Other physical symptoms include neck pain caused by constantly bending their necks – even during walking – to interact with their smartphones. This is also referred to as “iNeck”.

In South Korea, one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world, government estimates 2.55 million people are addicted to smartphone (using them for more than eight hours a day). Currently counselling services on such disorders is on the increase, as are digital addiction clinics or digital detox camps where people are taught to reduce their dependency on devices and being online. The message here is simple – more and more people are becoming hooked on a legal electronic drug!

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The topic regarding the loss of “limbic resonance” also needs to be considered here. This phrase is used to describe the exchange between two people interacting in a safe and caring relationship, which results in the release of neurochemicals which are necessary for full emotional and physical wellbeing. Without enough limbic resonance in our lives, over time, we function and feel less and less well.

This is why isolation is bad for us. We are social animals; we need one another. As adults, we become depressed and anxious without enough limbic resonance in our lives. As newborns, we may die. For young people this often leads to a lack of social skills (or intelligence) resulting in an inadequacy in achieving social and emotional interactions.

The growing trend of not being able to live in the moment—without broadcasting every detail in text, tweet, or social media share, needs to be monitories and curtailed by responsible parents or partners. It speaks of a larger issue – in internet-speak FOMO, also known as the dreaded Fear of Missing Out. This is often described as not really living life, but transmitting it.

There are no clear solutions or answers to this, not least because the advent of the internet and technology has brought with it so many advantages. Responsible behaviour is required by all – especially parents. This column should at least be able to provide pointers towards being a healthier individual in our technological age. Recognition of a problem is the first step in this direction.

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