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  • My name is Professor Andrew Przybylski and in my humble opinion, technology addiction is a myth.

  • Casual use (of) the term "addiction" has a very real effect of potentially trivializing how we talk about addiction more broadly.

  • We might say a popular game, app or streaming series is addictive, but what do we really mean when we use that word?

  • Are we seriously equating this kind of behavior with a problem with drink or taking drugs?

  • What we really mean is the activity is fun, it's engaging, it's immersive and it's enjoyable.

  • We know the amount of dopamine that's released when you do something like have sex, eat food or play video games.

  • It's kind of in a pretty narrow band, but taking drugs like cocaine, ecstasy or amphetamines has a much larger impact.

  • Something that not many people know is that technology addiction itself, started as a bit of a practical joke.

  • In the mid 1990s, the American psychiatrist Dr. Ivan Goldberg, grew frustrated with how psychiatry was medicalising everyday life.

  • He wanted to use Internet as an example, he took symptoms from gambling disorder and substance abuse disorder,

  • and he pushed them together to kind of illustrate how silly the manualization of everyday life had become.

  • Here we are 20 years later, talking about video game addiction, internet addiction and smart phone addiction, as if they're their real, own things along with checklists, acronyms and media headlines.

  • Though headlines might seem very sure about the addictive potential of technology, the actual research itself is a bit of a mess.

  • We're not really sure if technology might cause problems in people's lives, or if those who already have problems in their lives, gravitate to using technology in less healthy ways.

  • One of the most worrying things is, because there isn't a lot of good evidence in hand, there are a lot of people trying to sell the general public on some big ideas.

  • At the very least, this means that people are selling books, they're going on chat shows, they're kind of being influencers.

  • But at the worst it means that some people are taking advantage.

  • They're running for profit clinics, they're using methods of treatment that haven't been either standardised or validated or shown to help people.

  • In some cases, we have people who are running clinics, publishing research on technology addiction, and not disclosing that they themselves are profiting directly from treating technology addiction.

  • What's currently missing from the debates and the worries about technology addiction is a historic perspective.

  • In the 1980s we were very worried about Dungeons & Dragons, playing role-playing games that involved young people's imaginations.

  • We were worried that they would lose connection with the real world, that they would engage in Satanic rituals.

  • Then in the late 80s and early 90s, we became very worried about rap music and violent video games.

  • We thought that maybe they changed the young people, drove them to commit violent acts.

  • We didn't stop worrying about rap music, Dungeons & Dragons or video games because of new empirical evidence.

  • We stopped worrying about them because our anxiety shifted from those fields, from those topics, to things like the Internet and online games.

  • So as scientists, as psychologists and researchers, we need to ask ourselves, is there really something special about technology?

  • Or is this a new panic that we have to grapple with?

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My name is Professor Andrew Przybylski and in my humble opinion, technology addiction is a myth.

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