When we think of addiction, most people think of common drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. But very few people would think that their smartphone qualifies as a drug. Recent observations from a “Monitoring the Future” study found that over the last year, there has been a significant decline in drug usage among teenagers, specifically among 8th, 10th and 12th graders, while smartphone usage increased. Although the National Institution on Drug Abuse will not begin discussions on the topic to conduct a proper study on the matter, it does beg the question: could it really be that our smartphones are replacing drugs? The answer might very well be yes.
Stern professor Dr. Adam Alter defines addiction as “something you enjoy doing in the short term, that undermines your well-being in the long term — but that you do compulsively anyway.” Smartphone usage fits nicely into this definition: mastering new Snapchat filters and scrolling through our feeds on Facebook seem like great ways to escape our responsibilities, but they are not so great when we consider the long, unfinished paper that may be due the next day or the unread book chapter that will be discussed in the next class. Almost all NYU students can agree that being on their smartphones is more appealing than sitting at a desk working on assignments for hours on end — this is the same reasoning, though less extreme, behind the one used to justify drug use.
Repeated drug use among teens — even with common substances such as marijuana and opioids — can cause user dependency, according to the NIDA. Similarly, when teenagers over use their smartphones, they can grow dependent on the seemingly high feeling of avoiding responsibilities. When faced with the two options that have nearly the same effect — staying comfortably on social media or obtaining and using drugs — a lot of teenagers may prefer to simply save their energy.
Although it is very unlikely that we will see a complete disappearance in teenage drug-consumption because of smartphones, the idea that smartphones have become a drug themselves is apparent.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them
Email Adryan Barlia at [email protected]