Q. What makes you think that people have become addicted to digital devices and social media?
A. In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.
How do you define “addiction?”
The definition I go with is that it has to be something you enjoy doing in the short term, that undermines your well-being in the long term — but that you do compulsively anyway.
But those two months I did nothing but play Crossy Road—that was just time well spent.
We’re biologically prone to getting hooked on these sorts of experiences. If you put someone in front of a slot machine, their brain will look qualitatively the same as when they take heroin. If you’re someone who compulsively plays video games — not everyone, but people who are addicted to a particular game — the minute you load up your computer, your brain will look like that of a substance abuser.