Stuck at home with no other connection to the outside world - except, maybe, the occasional toilet roll run and wine stock-up - technology became our best friend at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With strict lockdown restrictions in place and no way to see or feel any form of connection with another human being, people turned to their screens - computer, cellphones, TVs, and beyond - for a sliver of something that felt “real” despite it happening all through the internet.
So from Zoom happy hours to nighttime Facetime sessions before bed, remote schooling and working, and the rise of “Netflix party” (which, if you haven’t tried it, is actually fantastic), people became even more dependent on technology to provide them with the entertainment and the companionship we needed to just get by.
Personally speaking, I’m pretty sure that I saw even more of my friends virtually during the pandemic than I did when we were actually allowed to see each other. There was always something happening in the group chat, someone planning a game night, someone celebrating a birthday, someone teaching a cooking class, someone offering yoga lessons...my calendar was packed.
However, there are always two sides of the same coin. And with all the great experiences that came with being online more often and for longer, there were also many downsides.
Enter: the tech addiction that can’t be stopped.
From the comfort of your screen
Recent studies have shown that technology works as a sort of “gateway drug” because of the effects it has on people’s brains.
Consuming content from your screen gives way to a dopamine rush - similar to the one you get when gambling - that soothes any of the emotional worries or pain you might be feeling. It works as an escape from reality and releases the real-life pressures that both adults and children can be currently dealing with like: fights with friends, problems at school, troubles in their marriage, death and illness...the list goes on.
Think of it this way: how many times have you spent scrolling mindlessly through TikTok, only to realize that it’s not 3 AM and you have a stressful 7 AM meeting you haven’t prepared for?
I, for one, am guilty as charged...and I’m sure you’re shyly nodding in agreement (don’t worry, I won’t tell your boss).
The thing about this addiction is that there doesn’t necessarily need to be anything “bad” happening in your life for it to develop. Sometimes, even something as simple and universal as boredom can lead to a dangerous game of “How long can I spend on my phone at night before my eyes start to burn and the sound of my partner’s chewing drives me to madness”
(Is that just me? Yeah? Cool.)
Plus, with reports of mental health steadily declining over the past year, more and more people are turning to their phones as a way to cope with the reality of the pandemic: no going outside, no hugging friends, no taking the holiday you so desperately deserve, no escaping the Slack “knock brush” notification we all now hear in our nightmares, no dropping your kid off at school to give yourself a break…stop me before I download another app and waste my entire afternoon on it, please!
This dependency turned escape is also making people less capable of dealing with real-life situations, mostly because people don’t remember how to interact outside of double taps, TikTok quotes, and emojis, forcing them to then develop unhealthy habits like irritability and anxiety with a side dose of insomnia.
And, like a junkie experiencing a comedown, take a phone away from someone today and they’re likely to break out into a cold sweat just minutes after their final Instagram scroll.
I get high with a little help from my phone
All this to say: technology gets you high. And the comedown is tremendously harmful.
But how can we flip the switch and go from thinking that technology basically saved our lives during the pandemic to seeing it as the next incarnation of evil?
And how do we cope with knowing that, today, the terrifying “Screen Time” notification you receive every Sunday is more a cause for concern than a sign you had a social life?
By setting limits for ourselves. Easier said than done, right?
And while I’m not outwardly suggesting that you run over to Amazon and buy one of those safety boxes with a timer on them, I’m more for the idea of allocating no-phone times throughout the day to cut back on the addiction slowly (because, let’s face it, cutting it completely would be impossible).
+ Set a rule that says no phones are allowed at the dinner table.
+ Block your apps from 9 PM onwards until you start work the next day.
+ Leave your phone at home once a week for a tech-free outing.
+ Make the most of time limits that stop you from using apps after you’ve been on them for X amount of time.
And for the lucky few who are seeing restrictions slowly ease up where they live, why not trade up the weekly Zoom session for a socially-distanced hang in the park instead? Feel the grass, sip on something icy cold, and forget about the next dance or TikTok transition that will leave you frantically Googling for more.
Written by Camila Perez