We are constantly connected to the world we live in and the fear of being un-connected is becoming a serious problem – it even has its own acronym: FOMO (fear of missing out.)
An MSN article titled, “Fear of Missing Out Drives Internet Addiction in Japan”, documents the constant necessity to be online at all times. According to the article, high school girls in Japan spend an average of seven hours a day on their mobile phones and nearly 10% of them put in at least fifteen hours a day. Psychiatrist and leading net addiction specialist Takashi Sumioka says “This type of obsession is caused by the fear that they will get left out or bullied in a group if they don’t reply quickly.”
The high schoolers of Japan aren’t alone in having issues with internet addiction. An ASAPScience video reveals that as much as 10% of internet users are unable to control how much they’re glued to their screens. Although the internet is a psychological addiction and not a substance addiction, brain scans of these people actually show similar impairment of regions of the brain that drug addicts have. Specifically, such regions of the brain that control attention to detail, emotional processing, and decision making have shown a clear reduction in white-matter pathways. Why? As TRACOM often emphasizes, your brain is much more flexible than previously thought and you can rewire your brain to form different synaptic connections. Such re-wiring can be used in a positive way, for example; to improve EQ or develop resiliency, or, as in this case, it can cause negative synaptic connections and alter how you perceive gratification. Social media provides immediate rewards with minimal effort required, and your brain begins to re-wire itself, making you desire these stimulations causing you to crave more and more of this neurological excitement after each interaction.
Social media also creates a release of dopamine—the feel good chemical and same part of your brain associated with love, pleasure and motivation. MRI scans shows that the reward centers of our brains are activated when we are talking about own views as opposed to listening to others. When we are interacting face to face with other people we only get to communicate our views or our own experiences 30-40% of the time, “80% of social media communication, on the other hand, is self-involved.” And the more followers we have, the more dopamine that is released. “Our body is physiologically rewarding us for talking about ourselves online.”
It’s quite easy to see why and how being constantly connected is so effortlessly addictive. But as mentioned previously, our brains are re-wirable and nothing is permanent.
Developing and maintaining an adaptive mindset is one key to functioning in this constantly evolving world that we live in. The world requires us to be more connected, yet despite the internet’s addictive properties, we somehow need to not let it affect us and our way of communicating and thinking. This takes a great deal of resiliency, the ability to rewire our brains and focus on being present and mindful of every situation we encounter without resorting to utilizing social media at any given opportunity.
View the full story, Fear of Missing Out Drives Internet Addiction in Japan here.