16th December 2019

Are you ‘Appdicted’? An insight into social media culture in Zambia

Source: Ragan.com
Source: Ragan.com

Phones were initially created for communication, but the evolution of technology and more social media apps, has seen them evolve into gadgets that serve most of our human needs.

Phones can now take high-quality pictures and videos, help us locate where we are and where we are going,and help us find our car keys, help us wake up in the morning and put our lives together, so they are an essential part of our culture, lifestyle and make our lives better.

Recently it isn’t a surprising sight to find people in a social gathering sitting down and all glued to their phones, only looking up to pause for a selfie and then back to their phones. But are people really to blame? It is our nature to want more of what makes us happy and socially accepted.

According to Charles A. Czeisler a Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, ‘phone use has been linked to insomnia, isolation and has even been connected to why so many young people struggle with feelings of loneliness and fears of missing out.’

Phone addiction is real and is one of the perpetuating factors that boost sales of new, improved phones that have a greater capacity to carry more applications and run them faster and smoother. Addiction is born from pleasure and convenience. One only has to look around to see the signs of application addiction. The emergence of smartphones has increased our love for connectivity and the pleasure it brings.

Scientists have proved that our brains get flooded with dopamine (the happy hormone) whenever we hear our phones beep or ring or when we see likes or comments on our posts. Our minds have developed a reward-path associated with the action that brings on the hit of dopamine, and we repeat the behaviour to feed our dopamine addiction.

According to Charles A. Czeisler, a diagnosis of substance dependence characterises at least three of the following; tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, spending a lot of time, money and effort to obtain substance, giving up other activities for the substance, trying to avoid substance but failing, continuing to use the substance even though it causes serious physical or psychological harm. Do any of these symptoms sound familiar when it comes to phone and application use?

It is common to hear of people stealing phones, taking selfies while driving, texting on the road, posting embarrassing things for likes and ignoring their actual lives for their cyber lives.

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Source: Eureka Street

The problem with addiction is that it is deeply embedded in our lifestyle, memory, motivations and drive. The best is to avoid addiction and not develop a reliance on substances digital or physical.

Addiction may seem harmless when all we are doing is posting normal things at normal times on social media, but when it begins to interfere with our productivity and social relationships and interactions then there is a problem. We cannot multi-task as the human mind serialises tasks so app activities will always take precedence.

Talking on the phone while driving, even when it is hands-free, can lead to lethal accidents because concentration is impaired. The brain cannot focus on two cognitively-demanding activities at once so no, you cannot talk and drive or Instagram and drive because no matter how advanced hands-free technology is, our brains can’t focus well enough on both. But because you are addicted, you claim you can.

Culturally and with regards to our lifestyle we have lost boundaries and all kinds of things are posted online for the comments, likes and popularity. Is it really necessary to post every meal, every step and every outfit worn in your life? People even go to the extent of faking lifestyles and posing with drinks have not drank just for the likes.

Relationships are faked, personal information is shared and people are bullied and stalked online and the point has really been lost. People tweet more than they read and do things that normally wouldn’t be done. Where does the line get drawn?

So next time, when you are eating cold food because you were too busy taking pictures of it while it was hot, when you are dozing because you spent the night online, when you dream of the jellies in Candy Crush or when you are in church but actually on Facebook, ask yourself if you really need the App time or maybe you are just Appdicted.

About the contributor

Mukandi Siame; born and raised in Zambia. Loves words, art, enjoys the thrill of being alive. Writes because she breathes.