App and Technology Addiction: Compulsions or Psychological Addiction

App is Canceled For Having “Addicting” Qualities

“If ‘Flappy Bird’ players tell you that it ‘ruined their lives’ or ‘interfered with important things’, in those senses it does adhere to the principles of addiction that we know,” Beth Caldwell, The Director of Neuroscience at Ithaca College said.

The app is now unavailable in all mobile app stores, Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen announced the decision via twitter on February 8:

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Released in the app store on May 24, 2013, Flappy Bird garnered little success until January 2014 when it became the most downloaded free mobile application in all U.S. app-stores. Before being taken down, the game made a reported $50,000 in advertising revenue every day according to a Time Magazine report.

Nguyen tweeted his reasoning for taking down the popular game downloaded more than 50 million times:

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Fans of satire and the ‘irony’ of the Flappy Bird situation, took to social media to vent about the reasoning behind the cancelation of the game.

However, they may not have considered the possibility that Nguyen may be right about the addictive nature of the game.

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 1.37.12 PMResults from a survey taken by 48 people revealed 25 percent of those polled answered that the mobile application Flappy Bird was psychologically dangerous or addicting in some way and currently effecting their studies.

New Definitions of Addiction

In the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), there are now categorizes for gambling disorder as an addictive disorder, similar to substance-related disorders.

According to the DSM-5, a gambling disorder by categorization is similar to substance-related disorders. Despite not being a mobile application, gambling being moved into the ‘addictive disorders’ category may open a door for the introduction of new material like mobile applications.

In an interview with The Week, The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, say “video game addicts are often obsessed with the game,” and later describe similar symptoms to that of a substance related addiction “they relive their previous plays and get overly excited thinking about the next time they will play.”

Before the new definition, addiction was only associated with substance abuse.

“Other kinds of addiction that are more compulsive behavior follow stimulus specific behavior (every time you see something, you perform an act with it), like gambling, mobile games, and texting,” Caldwell said.

An NPR article, dated July 24, 2013, reviewed the addictive nature of the technology in our lives and how game developers focus on special ways to manipulate our brains into enjoying new apps.

If we conclude that game developers are successfully capturing our attention to the point of addictions or compulsions, how do we defend against it?

Our lives are surrounded by mobile devices and technology at work, at school, and pretty much everywhere else. For those who have smartphones, sometimes there seems like there is no way of evading it.

Caldwell like most college professors, has “required students to not use their phones during class,” but she realizes that not all compulsions can be avoided, “some students just succumb to their compulsions.” In order to try to prevent students from their compulsive behavior, she rewards them with extra credit for avoiding to use cell phones during class.

Her psychology students later thanked her for this strict policy, because for the class period, they were able to avoid the screen that has become so essential to their everyday lives.

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