CRISCIONE: Recognition, treatment of computer technology addictions must evolve


Column: The Digital Downfall

College counselors are reporting an increase of students seeking help with their social media and technology addictions. 

Often times students do not realize how far gone they are when it comes to having an online presence. With social media becoming more and more essential to life, it takes hold for many. The online persona is a dangerous thing in regards to influence and even professionalism. 

Adults can be in front of a screen for an upward of 9 to 11 hours daily when you factor in all the different screens people look at. With all of the increased screen time on technology and social media, it tends to lead to a number of health issues. In today's age it feels almost impossible to pull away from this since everyone is using it everywhere. 

Students are becoming more aware of the issues though. After seeing grades drop and becoming riddled with anxiety, students resort to counselors, but many keep it a secret. There is also a stigma behind getting help, and people who speak about receiving help for something such as social media addiction might be ridiculed for being “weak.”

This can leave students in a bind between thinking they do not need help and that they are afraid to get help, since it might lead to a backlash from colleagues. Also, the acceptance of needing help is the most difficult thing for most people. It becomes easy to scroll through social media and see how much better everyone's life is when feeling this way. When everything around a student seems positive, it becomes difficult to realize the deeper addiction cycle.

This addiction cycle tends to begin when difficult times in school approach. A student will often look for an outlet to see how someone else's life is doing instead of improving theirs. This looking and scrolling can last from a few minutes to a few hours and lead into becoming fully distracted. Of course this leads to lower grades and lower work proficiency, but it also leads to deeper forms of anxiety and that cycles.

The Addiction Center has recently released an article detailing how and why scrolling through social media and screens can become addictive. 

“Self-disclosure on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also ignites when taking an addictive substance. The reward area in the brain and its chemical messenger pathways affect decisions and sensations,” according to the article.

More and more students are seeking help, but at times it might be a bit difficult to help a majority of these students. Since we live in a digital age and are part of this growing technology, cutting it out of people's lives are difficult and almost impossible. What is done is having technology become a controlled “substance.” Social media addiction has to be treated like any other addiction, according to The Washington Post

With the latest updates, certain smartphones users are actually able to set a limit on how many total hours a day they can spend on social media. Once the time limit is up, they are locked out. In some cases there is a limit to how many times a user can open the app. Becoming more aware of the dangers of this lifestyle of technology is assisting the future. While setting a limit for something that is part of daily routine might be difficult, it might have to be done to better the lives of young adults and adults.

A few students have addressed that they are taking actions to help cell phone addiction, but even fewer mentioned seeking professional help. This is expected, since many students would not want to talk about whether they are going individually, but there has been an increase of approximately 30% across multiple college campuses.

Colleges are now becoming counselors for students, according to The New York Times. Since more than 60% of college students report that they experience severe anxiety and another 40% say they have depression, schools needed to act.

“There’s a much more radical feeling that you’re either a winner or a loser,” said Victor Schwartz, a psychiatrist and medical director of the Jed Foundation, which helps colleges improve its mental health programming.

Alexander Criscione is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies. His column, “The Digital Downfall,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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