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Ask Slashdot: Are Interactive Computing Devices Addictive? 98

This question came from two things noticed by Slashdot reader dryriver:

"Myself and just about every other kid I was friends with in the 1980s were definitely addicted to computers when we were young, and stayed that way until we reached college."

"There is increasing concern about everybody from young kids to people 60+ staring into smartphone, tablet computer and laptop screens for hours and hours every day and not partaking in other activities they used to before the "glowing screen" hooked them."

His question: Are interactive computing devices, whether networked or not, addictive in nature? What kind of applications appear to be the most addictive? (AAA games? Casual games? Social media? Texting?) And could the addiction have something to do with "Neuroplasticity", the fact that doing an activity over and over again each day that you place great importance in, and pay great attention to, can actually rewire the neurons in your brain?
Nicholas Carr once argued that "We're training ourselves, through repetition, to be facile skimmers, scanners, and message-processors -- important skills, to be sure -- but, perpetually distracted and interrupted, we're not training ourselves in the quieter, more attentive modes of thought." Slashdot readers seem uniquely qualified to address this, so leave your own attentive thoughts in the comments. Are interactive computing devices addictive?
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Ask Slashdot: Are Interactive Computing Devices Addictive?

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Saturday August 05, 2017 @09:55PM (#54948873)
    if you let it
    • if you let it

      This exactly. What is addictive? I find browsing the internet addictive. It releases endorphins and makes me happy so I continue to do it. I also do the same with wakeboarding, and tinkering with electronics.

    • Exactly (Score:5, Informative)

      by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @01:24AM (#54949349)

      There's a great video on addiction [youtube.com] by Youtube user Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, that offers up the following: "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection." It's almost too simple to be correct, but it makes sense.

    • It depends on who you're talking to.

      In colloquial speech, yes, anything can be addictive.

      For people going on medical definitions, no. People can experience compulsions around nearly anything, but generally behaviors don't cause addiction, except for things like a runner's high. Many professionals have started explaining compulsions as "behavioral addictions" since many people don't understand the terms that well.

      Compulsive behaviors can include nearly anything that a person does where they develop a lif

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      I often find restating a question makes it better: how good an analogy is "addiction" for the way people use their mobile devices?

    • i suppose "we should make them kids watch more television and read books from libraries again?"
      and then forget how google and facebook came into existence ... but that might not be such a bad thing since do no evil is euh ... an urban legend i think by now
      besides ... tape recorders made the beatles into beggars since those kids wouldnt stop copying ... public libraries might be under scrutiny soon enough since all those books inthere are actually non-piratable ... its a bit of "how the law is its own bu
  • Anything can be addictive if you like it.

    • Goes to show how little you know of addiction.
      • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday August 05, 2017 @11:29PM (#54949087) Homepage

        It is all about brain states. Any activity that produces a individually desirable brain state ie happy will inherently be addictive, why would you not want to feel more content, that is the way a normal brain is genetically programmed. So some individuals find exploring thoughts more fun, more comfortable than exploring people or exploring the environment, whilst others are the opposite. The problem is in the nature of control freaks who demand that you alter your activities to suit them, their ego, their greed and their warped lusts.

        As far as society is concerned, your behavioural addictions just need to be allowed and be usefully incorporated in that society, not that you be psychological tortured for the rest of your days to feed the egoistic demands of the minority who have usurped control of that society from the majority.

        A developing society is all about individual specialisation working collectively to promote the greater good of the majority. That individuality, those personal behavioural addictions, allowing different minds to approach, different problems, from different directions, so as to produce the best possible solutions for those problems and allow the continued advancement of that society.

        They are addicted to those behavioural patterns that their brain finds most genetically suitable, why the fuck would you force them away from it, psychologically torture them to fit your mild, your desires, which is what psychopathic capitalism does, which is what we currently do. Enslave the minds of people to feed the ego and greed of a minority.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Did you know that games are designed to addict by using psychological gimmicks? Autoplay on youtube? Number showing how many days you have been connected with your friend on snapchat? Ot is all addictive by design. Without proper education you don't even know how they control you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 05, 2017 @09:58PM (#54948885)

    Every day, i find myself spending 8 hours sitting in a bizarre grey cube doing what people who are called my "bosses" tell me to do. Mostly it involves typing things into a black box, which then shows me markings on a screen, after which i type more things into the black box.

    Twice a month i receive "credits" in an "account" - essentially i am just making a number go up in a database. Much like a gamer.

    If you count travel and lunch time, i spend 50 hours a week doing this activity. I'm starting to get worried. At this "Workplace" we are not supposed to talk about sex, drugs, racism, or anything controversial. There are cameras watching us all day long and recording our keystrokes. It can get a bit weird after a while. I wonder if I have joined a cult?

    But mostly, when I tried to stop "doing work", i was told that I had to move out of my apartment, stop driving my car, and stop buying food! This "work habit" had gotten way out of control - i couldn't live without it.

    I don't know if there is a solution, but I wish someone could help me. Even my psychologist asked me for "money" when I tried to talk to her about it! ! ! Crazy.

    • Yes indirectly. You are addicted to money. It is a very powerful addiction encouraged by reality

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Saturday August 05, 2017 @10:00PM (#54948893)
    Do you foam at the mouth if you can't play a game when you want? Do you twitch when you can't get at your facebook profile? Do you break into people's houses when you can't get a grindr match?

    You ain't addicted, you're a lawyer looking for a way to get your stupid ass client off whatever stupid thing you did.
    • Do you foam at the mouth if you can't play a game when you want? Do you twitch when you can't get at your facebook profile? Do you break into people's houses when you can't get a grindr match? You ain't addicted, you're a lawyer looking for a way to get your stupid ass client off whatever stupid thing you did.

      There are varying degrees of drug addiction - from caffeine all the way to alcohol, opiates, cocaine, and the even stronger addiction to nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms vary too, from mild, to uncomfortable, to excruciating, to deadly. Previous posters in this thread have noted, (perhaps tongue in cheek, but there's truth there nonetheless), that 'anything can be addictive'. Anything that causes a pronounced, consistent, repeatable physiological and / or psychological response has addictive potential - all th

      • Re:How about no (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @12:27AM (#54949227) Homepage

        There are varying degrees of drug addiction - from caffeine all the way to alcohol, opiates, cocaine, and the even stronger addiction to nicotine. Withdrawal symptoms vary too, from mild, to uncomfortable, to excruciating, to deadly. Previous posters in this thread have noted, (perhaps tongue in cheek, but there's truth there nonetheless), that 'anything can be addictive'. Anything that causes a pronounced, consistent, repeatable physiological and / or psychological response has addictive potential - all the way from 'healthy' things like meditation and running, to life-destroying hard drugs. Smartphones, TV, and the like fall somewhere between the two extremes.

        I would also argue that just like a psychological disorder, it should only count as an addiction if it interferes with your life. If someone plays video games 4 hours a day but is happy with their life and is still able to pay their bills and takes care of what needs to be done, how is that different than someone who likes to take long walks in the evening or even someone who works a second job. There are plenty of people "addicted" to their job so much that it affects their life whether it is divorce or something else. On the other hand, if you're content working 2 jobs, working out at the gym 4 hours a day, or playing video games 4 hours a day, other people might not agree with your choice but it doesn't matter if you are fine with it.

        • Re:How about no (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Puff_Of_Hot_Air ( 995689 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @06:11AM (#54949749)

          it should only count as an addiction if it interferes with your life.

          There are plenty of functional alcoholics, smokers, even users of heroin. Just because you've managed to incorporate it into your life doesn't mean your not addicted, or that it's a good thing. But in general I completely agree with you, it's just that most addicts are incapable of realizing that they have a problem on their own. (I.e. I'm not addicted! It's not hurting anyone!)

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            it should only count as an addiction if it interferes with your life.

            There are plenty of functional alcoholics, smokers, even users of heroin. Just because you've managed to incorporate it into your life doesn't mean your not addicted

            Just because you manage to incorporate something into your life, doesn't mean you're addicted to it.

            In fact when it doesn't interfere with your life, its pretty much not an addiction. Addiction is defined as a substance or activity that becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns. So someone managing a drinking or gambling habit so that it does NOT interfere with their lives is not an addict. You can argue that it isn't healthy, but its not an addiction if they're not sa

          • by dddux ( 3656447 )
            If someone is satisfied with his or hers life, as in *being happy*, addicted to *whatever*, why is it being bad for as long as it's not hurting other people? I'm quite fine with other people being addicted to whatever they want, for as long as they don't hurt anyone in the process. If they want to kill themselves slowly, then be it.
    • by jiriw ( 444695 )

      I'm addicted to water. Even daily doses don't cut it for mild withdrawal symptoms. I have to have a hit every couple of hours. If I go three days without it, withdrawal symptoms become murderous, literally. And it's not only me. Wars are fought over it. It's the most destructive drug on the face of the earth. Not only for about every living thing, but also for the earth itself... Erosion is mostly caused by water (related) processes.
      More than 7 billion people and even most animals are addicted to the stuff,

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I wouldn't call it an addiction, but I would call it playing into human weakness.

      Humans are naturally attracted to bright glowing rectangles that have things that move on them. It doesn't have to be a smartphone screen, it could be a TV screen, or computer monitor. Or even airplane avionics.

      When the old steam gauges of the past were replaced with the modern glass panels of the future, the attractiveness of such screen was noticable - your eyes are just drawn to them. Not really a big problem when the only p

  • I'm sorry (Score:5, Funny)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday August 05, 2017 @10:03PM (#54948901)

    The summary was pretty long. I did skim the first couple of lines, but - was there a question or something in there, somewhere?

    - Sent from my iPad

    • The question was, "Dude, like, are smart phones bad? Are the padawans turning into jeejahs?"

    • Not so far as I can tell. Something about tying an onion to your belt because that was they style at the time...
    • You must be addicted to Slashdot to post on this article.

      - Sent from another non iPad device.

  • wait, I was doing something... I forgot... wow, another cat video... I didn't know cats could do that, this is awesome

  • Computers are habit forming but not addictive. Addiction is caused by chemicals screwing with your biology. If you take a computer away from someone for a week, it bothers them because is breaks their habit, but they don't go through withdrawal like heroine or nicotine. Computers don't do that.
  • It just replaced my grandpa's TV. He would spend hours watching Direct-TV. Then he found Netflix and the same thing. Now its browsing any random shit he finds on YouTube or Facebook.

    There is no epidemic. He is just board. Being forced to use a smart phone, he uses this rather than his computer because its more daunting. Rather than reading a book or watching the TV, we now just shit post on the internet for fun.

    Though, even as I say this, even I want to tell my grandpa to turn the TV on once in a whil

  • by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Saturday August 05, 2017 @10:39PM (#54948979) Homepage
    ...Just count how many "computer addicts" are pimping themselves out to random strangers so only they can afford to play another session of WoW?
  • Are interactive computing devices, whether networked or not, addictive in nature?

    No. You can easily make any device frustrating enough to use that people will hate using it even if it saves them hours of work.

    What kind of applications appear to be the most addictive?

    This is the heart of the issue, the applications! A significant amount of neurological research has gone into how to trigger the reward centers in the brain which is what causes some software to be addictive. Some people research this and only this because it's become a very lucrative field.

    • You can easily make any device frustrating enough to use that people will hate using it

      Proof: Windows Mobile

      • That's at least arguable. If you want proof then you need to have someone try to use GIMP 1.x without yelling obscenities. It just cannot be done.

  • "rewire the neurons in your brain" = learning. We all do it all the time. Re: "Are Interactive Computing Devices Addictive?" -- Social media services; Facebook, Twitter, etc.; are designed to be as addictive as possible. They make their money out of having lots of eyes on their web pages so they hire gaming (read: gambling) consultants to "game-ify" their services, and like the gaming industry, they do it regardless of any negative effects this may have in people's lives. The biggest difference is that the
  • >"Myself and [...] until we reached college."

    Eeek, try "I"! Did you finish college? Anyway...

    >"Are Interactive Computing Devices Addictive?"

    Absolutely. But just about anything can become "addictive." The human brain almost seems to be wired to become "addicted" to all kinds of things. I watch many people twitch when denied access to their phones for just short periods of time, as if they can't survive 10 minutes of just silent thinking, contemplation, or even just a hour of conversation (often th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      10 minutes?
      I know LOTS of people that can't go more than 2 without looking at their phone. You could make a game show where people have to sit with their phone on silent and face down and see who could make it the longest without looking. Probably could do three rounds of that each half hour.

  • Interactive things tend to be more addictive than dead things. I mean... think about it... How addicted are you to your dead friends, dead pets, dead rocks? Aren't the interactive ones more fun?

  • Any activity that causes the body to releases dopamine or happy-fun chemicals like norepinephrine can be addictive. Video games, exercise, sex, drugs. I would think that some things, like playing with your phone or getting swole, are more innocuous.
  • Computer addiction (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    At 91 my eyes are not what they used to be and my energies also have dropped somewhat. To have a desktop which puts me in immediate touch with any news event, any comment, any reference for arcane information at the touch of a keyboard plus that the type can be easily enlarged to meed my visual decline. If anything, my contacts with the world and people of similar interest is far more intense than ever before. To characterize this as an addiction is, to say the least, a total misinterpretation of reality. A

  • I thought the whole idea of games, social media and other apps like these that they were designed to be addictive - otherwise how are users going to tell other people about them ("Man, I just can't stop playing this" or "This is the same game Alec Baldwin refused to stop playing when the plane was supposed to take off").

    There's really two issues here. The first is that various apps are addictive and the answer to that is yes because they are designed to be.

    The second, which I think is much more important, are the various apps not developing and harming long term thinking and reasoning skills? Are they turning us into purely reactive entities that don't think through their responses?

    Is Donald Trump president?

  • Slashdot readers are attentive? TIL. Flutters away to read something else.
  • I come to slashdot and other tech forums because it makes me feel better, as opposed to CNN. After reading that i want to off myself. ya these tech sites really seem to be a type of meditation almost... I think you all know what i mean... You have to be fully focused on what your doing (coding), or reading in regards to tech.... it takes your mind off the bad things quite well... especially if you got the BUG for it... you know what i mean about the BUG... that drive that makes you want to code... that feel
  • Does mental "down time" perform any useful function?

    Because that's what we're eliminating: time you spend neither doing something explicitly purposeful nor being entertained.

  • For most of those people staring at a screen, it's not the device that interests them, but rather the content. They have found a way to interact with more interesting people who are not in physical proximity. Here's a nice article on neurochemicals the brain uses to reward behavior [psychologytoday.com]. It's possible to design computer games that stimulate the release of these chemicals, particularly dopamine. In some cases, this can lead to behavior that qualifies as addiction. Most of the time, you're seeing people replacing
  • Yes
  • These devices and apps revolve around instant gratification which I think is the root of all addiction. If you have an addictive personality then using technology can become your vice. Or maybe it's not so much we're addicted to technology but we've been socialized to need it.
  • There comes a time when after youve done the school and the books, you need the cliff-notes, the reference data, the meat-and-potatoes, on a particular subject at a particular time. Computers help get you that one fact, so that you can get to the next thing. You could even give up books entirely if you have a career, because, meh, you'll read an interesting few later. Git er done, because your body is on its way to degrading permanently or youre gonna be kilt tomorrow. Do as thou will.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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