Many People Are Addicted To Phones Because of Endless Novelty Possibilities

In Education

Millions of people worldwide are addicted to their phone screens due to a combination of their inherent desire for novelty and the convenience of technology in delivering it, according to research from the University of Copenhagen. This study highlights the role of novelty-seeking behavior in our digital distractions, rooted in fundamental aspects of human psychology.

Checking social media not a result of information overload 

According to Jelle Bruineberg, a philosopher at the University of Copenhagen, the desire to check email or social media notifications isn’t due to information overload, and often, people are not even using their phones at the time. Instead, inherent craving for new and novel information, as explained by cognitive neuroscience, drives this behavior.

Cognitive neuroscience suggests that the innate desire for novelty is deeply ingrained in people’s minds. Digital technologies make it easy to satisfy this desire with minimal effort, as simple finger movements on one’s phones can offer this reward, as explained by Bruineberg.

For instance, in a library, it doesn’t make sense to constantly check a specific book since it’s static information, unlike the ever-changing digital realm. Humans’ susceptibility to developing “checking habits” stems from the ease of access and dynamic content online.

What is causing digital distractions?

The cause of digital distractions is a subject of debate. While it’s commonly believed that digital technology leads to distraction and difficulty focusing on important tasks, Bruineberg challenges this notion. The prevailing narrative assumes that in the past, when information was scarce, people had better control over their attention, and now, in times of information abundance, it’s more challenging to control our attention. However, Bruineberg argues that controlling attention has never been easy, and reducing information exposure may not be a simple solution.

Throughout history, religious communities have promoted meditation and contemplation to enhance focus and minimize distractions. However, modern digital technologies introduce new and widespread distractions. Bruineberg argues that human minds are ill-suited to handle seamless engagement, constant task-switching, and unlimited novelty provided by these technologies. To address this issue, he suggests the need for strict limitations on digital environments.

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