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Digital Addiction: How Half the Developed World Got Hooked on the Internet

Adam Alter | 5:36


Behavioral addiction is a lot like substance addiction in a lot of ways, but it's much newer. So substance addiction obviously involves the ingestion of a substance. And in the short term that feels good. And in the long term, it harms your well being in some respects, it can be physiological, it can be psychological that can harm your social life, it can cause you to spend too much money, it can have a lot of negative effects on your life. behavioral addiction is similar. 

The big difference, though, is that behavioral addiction does not involve the ingestion of a substance. And it's much newer, it's a much more recent phenomenon. So substance addiction has been around for a very long time, by some accounts for many 1000s of years. But there weren't behaviors around that were compelling enough to rise to the level of addiction until quite recently. And the reason is that, for them to be addictive, basically what has to happen is that there's a behavior that you enjoy doing in the short term, that you do compulsively, so you keep returning to it over and over again. 

But that in the long term harms your well being. And it can again, harm your well being in lots of different respects. social, financial, physical, psychological. And I think the reason why we've got these new forms of addiction, there are two main reasons. The first one is that technology is much more sophisticated and advanced than it was even 20 years ago, you're able to deliver the kinds of rewards that you need for a system to be addictive. So basically, what people are looking for is unpredictability and the rapid feedback of either rewards or if it's negative than negative experiences, and you actually need that mix of positive and negative feedback. Just as for example, when you post something online, sometimes you're gonna get a lot of hits, sometimes you aren't. And it's that unpredictability that we find so compelling, you need to be able to deliver those rewards really rapidly. And for that you need the internet with the right kind of bandwidth to be able to deliver those rewards.

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