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Smartphone addiction rooted in addiction to social connection

Since smartphones have reshaped our lives over the past decade, there have been concerns that the gadget’s addictive nature is replacing real social interaction.

Recently, students from Stanford University even protested at an Apple Store in Silicon Valley, demanding that the company make changes to the iPhone to make it less addictive.

The Stanford students aren’t the only ones who have raised issues with smartphone addiction or the idea that the device makes people anti-social.

However, researchers from McGill University in Montreal have offered some perspective on the debate surrounding smartphone addiction.

The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, show that people with smartphone addictions are actually “hyper-social,” and smartphones have provided an easy outlet to connect with people constantly.

“There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic,” said Samuel Veissière, the study’s lead author. “We’re trying to offer some good news and show that it is our desire for human interaction that is addictive — and there are fairly simple solutions to deal with this.”

According to the study, humans are extremely social and have evolved to be uniquely so compared to other species. People are constantly looking to others for guidance, approval, and input from others. This is an essential part of our day to day lives and helps shape our sense of identity.

For the study, Veissière and colleague Moriah Stendel reviewed current studies and literature regarding smartphone addiction and the dysfunctional use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens.

The researchers found that smartphone addiction is likely rooted in the need to be “hyper-social,” and that just like any other urge, cravings can quickly turn into unhealthy addictions.

“In post-industrial environments where foods are abundant and readily available, our cravings for fat and sugar sculpted by distant evolutionary pressures can easily go into insatiable overdrive and lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease,” the researchers said. “The pro-social needs and rewards [of smartphone use as a means to connect] can similarly be hijacked to produce a manic theatre of hyper-social monitoring.”

The team suggests that instead of regulating tech companies or phone use, curbing smartphone addiction starts with the consumers and creating a dialogue about the best ways to use smartphones.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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