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Technology Addiction: You Always Have a Choice

by Jan 4, 2024

We’re all addicts now. Or at least, the potential for addiction is higher than it’s ever been.

Even the person who’s least prone to addiction can be tempted by a glowing phone or humming laptop. Filling the gaps in our days with tech use is instant, easy, and feels good right up until it doesn’t.

Despite the constant tech temptations in the modern world, you can resist it without losing your job or resorting to off-the-grid living. Here’s why you should take the reigns on your tech use and some key methods for doing so.

The Dangers of Falling Prey to Tech Addiction

It always feels harmless.

You check the newsfeeds when you’re waiting in line. You entertain yourself when you’re eating dinner. You watch YouTube videos before bed.

Each moment becomes its own ritual. Tech enhances your day. It picks you up when you’re down. Maybe your job becomes fully remote, giving you more opportunities to scroll.

Eventually, you find yourself anxious and craving novelty even when you know it will upset you. Or worse, when you know it’s a pointless waste of time.

Tech can become so embedded in your life that you develop the need to always to be immersed in it, no matter how much trouble it causes you.

That’s when you know that things need to change.

The First Rule of Being Free from Tech Addiction: Awareness

Even the most maladaptive and damaging addictions can be seen as serving a purpose for the individual.

So, a significant aspect of getting a handle on an addiction is to see how it’s serving you. What do you get out of checking your phone every spare moment? Or playing video games until the wee hours? Or watching pornography instead of finding a romantic partner?

What are you avoiding? What are you escaping from? What emotional turmoil are you attempting to numb? Why is a moment of boredom so intolerable?

One might make excuses for their addictions. They might say, “Why be bored when you don’t have to be?” or “It just helps me relieve stress,” or “Dating is hard for me.”

Smartphones have been referred to by psychologists as “adult pacifiers.” 

When we’re feeling anxious, angry, uncomfortable, or bored, they are there to relieve our bad feelings with a soothing stream of distraction.

The key to taking control of your tech use is to find out what you need in moments of temptation and address that issue at the root. 

You can become aware. You can recognize when you’re tempted to scroll, what stressors in your life have prompted you to do so, and work to address those pains and worries in healthier ways. Between awareness and action, you get to decide what to do.

Healing From Tech Addiction: Practical Methods

Once you know what tech does for you, you can address your problems at their core. But knowing the reasons behind your habits is only the first step to changing them.

Remember: Technology is not going anywhere, so the sooner you can master it, the sooner you can be free of its control. Whenever you engage with tech, ask yourself, “Am I using it? Or is it using me?”

Here are practical methods for controlling your tech use and, ultimately, your life:

Time Limiting

  • Track your screen time and try to reduce it each week. 
  • Only play video games on certain days of the week or after you’ve accomplished certain tasks.
  • Use parental settings to limit the amount of YouTube videos you watch.
  • Use third-party phone apps to block websites, set alarms, and keep you on track.

2. Separation

  • Place your phone in a location outside of your room that you cannot reach at night.
  • Use Google Chrome extensions like Distraction Free Youtube to eliminate recommended videos and reduce opportunities for falling down rabbit holes.
  • Consider purchasing a dumbphone, a.k.a. a flip phone, to be used only for making calls and texts.
  • Decide how much news you are going to consume per day (or week), and focus on being present in your own life the rest of the time.
  • Browse the web only when it is required for you to do so because of work, school, or fun activities that you choose to engage in deliberately, not compulsively.

3. Alternatives

  • Take up offline hobbies such as writing, gardening, fitness, or practicing an art form that can capture your thoughts before technology can.
  • If you’re into gaming, only play classic, retro games on old consoles that aren’t tied to being constantly online.
  • Build a spiritual practice like prayer or meditation to focus your mind on the present and boost feelings of gratitude.
  • Read more books. Great books are as solitary and analog as it gets, and they have a way of capturing your imagination like nothing else. The same can be said of old films. Simply enjoying a television show on Netflix is better than aimless scrolling and internet wandering.

A special note on pornography:

Pornography addiction can be seen as an extension of tech addiction. It’s woven into the loop of instant gratification, and it can be highly damaging, especially for men. 

The more points of friction you put between yourself and an addiction, the more likely you’ll be able to steer clear of it. An example of this could be blocking inappropriate websites from your browsers using parental settings. 

Otherwise, a good alternative to pornography is to examine the quality of your current romantic relationship if you’re in one. And to take stock of what’s holding you back from achieving the intimacy you’re looking for.

This can empower you to move beyond the substitute for intimacy that pornography is. This is true in the same way that a live stream is a substitute for friendship, or a chatbot is a substitute for someone to talk to.

No One Is Perfect

We all fall prey to distraction. Don’t beat yourself up for how far you’ve gone down the tech rabbit hole. Your aim now should be to live an authentic, fulfilling life outside of constant stimulus.

Making moments and memories, being with people you care about, and immersing yourself in activities that build you up is where the real magic of living is.

You always have a choice when it comes to tech. It is within your power to make your one life as connected and present as you care to make it.

Ultimately, you can still enjoy technology. Just make sure it’s always on your own terms.