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Give the phone a break: mobile addiction

Posted by: Mobile Kugel

Mobile Kugel



 As I was researching addictions, I found an interesting article by Kathleen McGowan  on Psychology Today.  The article deals with addictions from the perspective of Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

 Volkow talks about a term called dopamine, a brain chemical involved in motivation, pleasure and learning.

 “Dopamine is more than a joyride. It's more like the drug of life. Its mission is more profound and philosophical: to connect us to the world and supply us with the will to stay alive.”

 I would like to argue that the roots of cell phone addiction are the same as drug addiction. Just as cocaine would, for example over stimulate the brain with dopamine, the feeling of self-importance floods the brain upon receiving an SMS /BBM. The release of this neuro-chemical results in one being unable to resist paying attention to the message, news, status, notification.

 Gregory Berns, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Emory University in Atlanta suggests, “It makes sense that the cognitive process of absorbing new information is closely tied to the brain's pleasure mechanisms. You might say that what the brain really "wants" is new information.”

 The main difference between drug and mobile addiction is that mobile phones do not apparently cause physical effects - only psychological ones. 

 Although with the increasing amounts of radiation we surround ourselves by daily, I remain concerned at the high risk of cancer cases happening in today’s society.

 Until our generation waits for the results, we are performing a consensual social experiment.

Let me apply this to a situation that happened the other day. I was staying at a friend’s house for the weekend. She has a younger brother, Marc, who is still in primary school. One of Marc’s weekly chores is to do “Poo Patrol” and scoop up the dog’s poo in the garden.

 Marc was playing TV games upstairs and hadn’t yet fulfilled this chore.

 His mother shouted from downstairs: “Marc David Sher, if you are not down here in 10 seconds I’ll take your phone away for three weeks!” True as bob within 10 seconds mark was in the garden cleaning up.

 One of the worst kinds of punishment for young kids seems to be the confiscation of school kids’ cell phones. There is a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability when some are separated from their mobile phones.

 If you don’t believe me, watch this.


In my first blog post I recounted an anecdote.

A young man was being interviewed made a comment about the general use of cell phones in public.

“If you have your head up and everyone has their head down, doesn’t mean that you are confident, it just means you don’t have a BlackBerry.”

 It was funny and it was true. Many people who own a cell phone are addicted to it in one way or another. SMSing used to be a major problem; BBM is the new problem child on the block.

The amount of times I have wanted to throw my Blackberry against a wall and blow that (insert swear word of choice) little flashing red LED light into smithereens is numerous.

 The red light is an invader of peace and quiet and I have become as skeptical of it as the Americans were of the Red Perril during the war.

 Yes, of course cell phones are important. Yes I love my Blackberry.  Of course I think BBM is the best thing since…well…SMS. But it is becoming more of a love-hate relationship as I begin to be affected by the interference of cell phones in my general socializing with friends.

 Mobile phones have become an integral part of the modern world. Where such technology once liberated us, we are now ironically imprisoning ourselves with the same technology. The vicious cycle has completed its course.



 I am having tea with a friend. We have not seen each other for months. There is so much news to be shared. So much gossip to catch up on. Lying next to my skinny latte and her vitamin water are our Blackberry’s.

 “Hi my babe, it’s so divine to see you”, says friend as she plants a perfume infused “air kiss” on each cheek.

 “I know, it’s been so long, how are you my doll!”, I reply thinking I should have brought my asthma pump with.

 Ping ping goes the Blackberry.

 “Oy babe, hold on a sec I think that could be the garage, my car might be ready. I need to take this.”


 “Blah blah blah… Is the car ready…replace how many tyres! much is it going to cost…money making scheme I tell you…ok whatever, you are the mechanic not me but I still think - …ya whatever, babes, just do what you need to do I just need my car before 5…

 “Sorry about that, so tell me how things with James, and varsity!?”,

 “Ah, so stunning, he really is a sweetheart and I cou-”

 Ting ting

 “Cooks, let me take this I promised Erica I would let her know about the party tonight.”

 Ya, I thought so it’s happened to you many times hasn’t it?


Are you addicted?

 Do you sleep with your phone next to your bed and wake up several times a night to check your email?

 Do you become upset, vulnerable and powerless when you are separated from your phone?

 Can you sit through a movie without checking your phone?

 Can you eat a meal without checking your messages?

 Do you go mad on long flights and long to turn your phone off even if it goes against the Civil Aviation Regulations?

 How many times a day do you click refresh on the Facebook home button?

 Lisa Merlo, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine says that “It’s not so much talking on the phone that’s typically the problem although that can have consequences too,” Merlo said. “(It’s) this need to be connected, to know what’s going on and be available to other people. That’s one of the hallmarks of cell phone addiction.”

 From some of the readings available online, it seems most mobile-addicts are people with low self-esteem who have problems with developing social relations and feel the urge to be constantly connected and in contact with others.

“Cell phone overuse really becomes problematic for a lot of people is if they have underlying anxiety or depression,” Merlo said. “This can really exacerbate it or (cause) their symptoms to manifest themselves.”

 For example, someone who worries about what others think of them could become easily agitated if their phone calls or messages aren’t returned right away.

 “This is something that is going to affect them on a day-to-day basis,” Merlo said.


Related articles:

Some of these articles are not very recent but are still interesting.


Jim Luce. The Huffington Post. The impact of Cell phones. Warning given over techno addicts


 Dr. Himanshu Tyagi . Mobile phone addiction may cause psychological problems .



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