Is Your iPhone Making You Lonely?

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, there will be:

  • 197 Reddit votes cast
  • 444 Instagram pics posted
  • 510,000 comments made on Facebook

(Note: Here’s a fun, little site about what happens online every second.)

The fact is all of us are online. A lot! And what we’re doing online changes in the blink of an eye.

That’s not a bad thing. Technology has much to offer us. But sometimes we need to stop clicking for a moment and think through our media habits to make sure we’re doing what’s best.

I’ve been doing that a lot lately because I’m smack dab in the middle of writing a book on loneliness. Did you know that young people are the fastest growing group of lonely people in the world? But you already knew that, didn’t you? I have a hunch that many of you are lonely. In fact, I’ve often said that if I could label your generation, I’d call you The Lonely Generation. Which is weird because you are the most connected generation that has ever existed. You’ve got Facebook friends, Instagram followers, and people to send a Snapchat to. But let’s face it, none of that is translating into real connection the way we want it to, is it?

Researchers have discovered that most of you have an average of 243 Facebook friends, but that’s not translating into real-life friendships. Their theory is that you are spending so much time online that you no longer have time to hang out with your non-Facebook friends. Talk about your all-time backfires!

So if technology is making us lonely, why do we keep clicking? We can blame our brains.

Scientists have discovered that every time we get a technological “ping,” such as a text or email alert, our brain gets a hit of dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical. New email in the inbox? Hooray! You get a tiny hit of dopamine. Someone likes your Facebook status? Dopamine! Did someone send you a Snapchat pic? You get a little dopamine.

When our brain releases dopamine, we interpret that as a reward. When it comes to our technology, what is the reward exactly? For the briefest of moments we feel known. But there is bad news . . .

John Piper put it this way: “Twitter and Facebook are subtly and powerfully tapping into our desire to be known and praised. It’s an addiction.”

He’s right, and the brain science backs it up. When we get low levels of dopamine, we are prone to addiction. Yes, our technology makes us feel good, but chemically speaking those warm fuzzies are eeking in at such a low level that we are all left craving more.

Do you know how we can get bigger doses of that feel-good chemical, dopamine? By spending time with real people . . . you know, the ones that exist outside of our computers and iPhones. Really getting to know others also scratches our itch to be known, but it does it in a way that does not lead to addiction. Real human relationships are the good stuff—the stuff we’re doing online is really just a cheap substitute.

With that in mind, I’d love to issue you a big challenge. Would you consider limiting your screen time to only the necessities (like school and for one whole week? I know there are probably a billion reasons why that seems impossible, but if you’re brave enough to power down, I’m convinced you’ll find deeper, more meaningful relationships.

Who knows, maybe so many of you will pull the plug that I’ll have to change your name to the Least Lonely Generation. That would be cool, huh?

So whadaya say? Are you willing to ditch all unnecessary screen time for one week? Do you think you will find deeper relationships if you do?

About Author

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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