Hazardous to Your Health?
where notifications train user to look
because they have received a text mes-
sage, social media update, or news alert.
Kuss details how this type of func-
tionality manifests in games that you
are unable to put down. “Many games
use rewards that are delivered based on
intermittent reinforcement schedules,
i.e., rewards are provided only some of
the times the gamer is performing the
action, making it more likely for them
to continue engaging in the behavior.”
Except this is no game; it’s a battle
for your waking life—and one that can
have negative effects on your health.
Caglar Yildrim, a professor of human-computer interaction at the State University of New York at Oswego, believes
smartphone addiction is a real problem.
In his research, Yildrim uses a questionnaire that scores people on the severity
of their smartphone dependence. If you
score between 100 and 200, you may actually experience severe anxiety when
parted from your device.
“This might negatively affect your so-
cial life and relationships with friends
and family,” says Yildrim. “There are
studies that show those who score high
on the test tend to avoid face-to-face
interactions, have high levels of social
anxiety, and maybe even depression.
It might affect your ability to work or
study, because you want to be connect-
ed to your smartphone all the time.”
One of the biggest dangers presented
by addictive tech is distracted driving.
According to the Pew Research Center:
“In a 2010 Pew Research Center survey,
nearly half (47%) of adults who use text
messaging (equivalent to 27% of all U.S.
adults) said they had sent or received
messages while driving.”
CNN reports nearly half of U.S. adults
say they have sent a text while driving;
distracted driving kills nine people and
injures more than 1,000 every single
When addictive tech starts to override rational precautions like paying attention while driving, the consequences
could be injury or death.
The mental toll of addictive services
like Facebook can’t be discounted, ei-
ther. Another former Facebook employ-
ee, former VP of user growth Chamath
Palihapitiya, said he does not allow his
children use that social media service
because he fears they will become ad-
dicted to “short-term, dopamine-driven
Kuss and a colleague analyzed previ-
ous studies on social media addiction
in 2011; they concluded social media
addiction actually “may be a potential
mental health problem for some users.”
To date, social media addiction
is not formally classified as a mental
health disorder. Just how much dam-
age has already been done is impossible
to tell, but the fact remains that many
users check these services, almost un-
consciously, many times a day—and
this can have extremely negative conse-
quences to time and health.
So what can users do to reduce their
dependence on services and devices intentionally designed to be addictive?
“Personally, I would recommend,
counterintuitively, to make time for
technology use,” says Kuss. “This takes
the immediate pressure off to use technology.” She recommends an hour in
the morning and an hour at night, then
setting the smartphone aside.
“I would also recommend putting
the technology away when having din-
ners with the family and spending time
in face-to-face interactions with others.”
“Overall, we need to create an in-
creased awareness of our technology
use. Our phones allow us to check the
time we spend on specific applications
and I recommend having a look at
this—it’s quite enlightening. The time
we spend using these apps is often lon-
ger than we think.”
If you haven’t checked Facebook lately,
you’re in the minority,
Business Insider, Oct. 2, 2017,
Shane, S., and Isaac, M.
Facebook to Turn Over
Russian-Linked Ads to Congress,
The New York Times, Sept. 21, 2017,
Sean Parker unloads on Facebook
“exploiting” human psychology,
Axios, Nov. 9, 2017
Smartphone addiction could
be changing your brain,
CNN, Dec. 1, 2017
Texting while driving may be common, but
it’s illegal in most states,
Pew Research Center, Nov. 15, 2013
Online Social Networking and Addiction—
A Review of the Psychological Literature,
International Gaming Research Unit,
Nottingham Trent University, Aug. 29, 2011
Logan Kugler is a technology writer based in Tampa, FL,
USA. He has written for over 60 major publications.
© 2018 ACM 0001-0782/18/6 $15.00