Ever since the emergence of Information & Communication Technology, life has been relatively easier to live in bringing numerous opportunities for both the elite and the masses. Many daily activities are being performed from the comfort of personal spaces without going through the adversities that follow. While majority [mostly millennials] perceive this as an advancement in the new age others see this as a problem rather than focusing on its advantages, most [African parents] see only the negative effects and try to attenuate its necessity in society.

This development has made a numerous fold dependant on technology and with the aid of the internet there has been a noticeable increase in laptop, tablets, consoles and smartphone purchases which triggered an epidemic addiction to these devices amongst kids, teens, youths and contemporary adults which has now precipitated the use of the term ‘Digital Cocaine‘ by the likes of Dr. Peter Whybrow, Director of Neuroscience at UCLA, Brad Huddleston author of the book ‘Digital Cocaine a Journey Toward Ibalance‘ and other prominent scientists and writers.

Digital Cocaine refers to smart devices we use tirelessly, repression, restriction and restraint of which leads to mental, emotional and psychological breakdown which sporadically leads to depression amongst other factors. – Daniel Ayuba. 

The reason why it is compared to cocaine and heroine is as a result of the abusive use of smart devices by persons which causes excess dopamine to be released into the frontal and upper area of the cortex of the brain [responsible for decision making, such as what to eat or drink as well higher mental processes such as planning and speech formation] causing an euphoric sensation that leaves you begging for more screen time. This addiction comes in many forms ranging from tech addiction, internet addiction, porn-addiction, sports addiction, game addiction, news addiction, social media addiction, amongst many others. Technology has become cheaper and therefore more accessible to more people hence supporting the rate of screen addiction. Society has encapsulated these things as part of the basic societal norms that have taken control of society itself causing problems like advanced fee fraud, suicide, depression, anxiety and an increase in the rate anti-social behaviour, increased aggression, psychosis and ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactive disorder) factors also similar to the side effects of drug addiction [facts].

Recent  research by Dr. Mark Griffith of Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit poised ‘that individuals get psychotic-like symptoms from gaming, wherein the game blurs reality for the player‘ due to hyper-stimulating and dopamine-activating immersive screen reality that leaves the gamer in a Digital Matrix. This hypothesis is based on the “Game Transfer Phenomenon“. Psychologist and author of the book ‘Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids’ Dr. Nicholas Kardaras said

I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict.

During an interview with SETH FERRANTI  of VICE MAGAZINE he was asked “If screen addiction can even compare to a heroin or cocaine addiction? Most people would say no, especially since phones are a necessity in today’s world” he replied, “Well, I definitely think that screen addiction meets all diagnostic clinical criteria for addiction. As does the Chinese Health Organisation and many other countries throughout the world. The US is a bit late to the dance. We don’t have it as an ‘official’ diagnosis in our [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] D.S.M, but we do have the topic marked as requiring further study and review. I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict, precisely because they’re so ubiquitous in our society that people inevitably have to interact with them on some level. Not so with heroin. In my clinical experience, the key to digital addiction prevention is to be mindful of the potential dangers of screen addiction and limit usage during those key developmental ages before it creeps over into digital addiction, because that’s a real bitch to treat.”

From a personal perspective using the recently released ‘PlayStation 4 pro’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto V online‘ as a premise for the argument  proffered above. The PlayStation 4 Pro and the PlayStation VR [Virtual Reality] gear is a pair better equipped for enhanced VR gaming. Effectively doubling [Graphic Processing Unit] GPU power to ‘AMD Radeon 4.2 TFLOPs‘ and CPU processor to ‘AMD Jaguar x86-64 8 Core‘ based hardware narrowing the options for choosing a PlayStation 4 Pro. Grand Theft Auto on the other hand is known as one of the best, if not the best action-adventure video game of all time because of its advanced free roam options and fictionally appealing online sessions users have become addicted and it has become elusive for psychologist to deal with. Using myself as an example I recently started playing GTA V’s-online mode for about three days now and i must say its a trilling experience within this short time I have reached level 18 and it took his grace to pull me off the screen.

Psychologists like Sarah SharplesProfessor of Human Factors at the University of Nottingham and President of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, would beg to differ, she said:

We haven’t really yet got to the stage where people have been using virtual reality for prolonged periods of time – over, for example, periods of weeks or months – to identify with any clear certainty any long-term effects of virtual reality.

She ended by saying:

The key point is : there are effects, but are they detrimental?

Albert “Skip” Izzo an Associate Director for Medical Virtual Reality, University of Southern California [U.SC], Institute for Creative Technologies Research Professor, U.SC Davis School of Gerontology and U.SC Keck School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences :

I think we need almost as much time now to study how humans behave and interact in the virtual world and what those implications are. I’m one of the biggest proponents that we can do things in VR that make a positive difference for people in the real world mainly because it helps his clients dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, he proceeds by saying. If you accept that then you have got to accept that maybe this technology could have detrimental effects that are yet to be seen. I don’t think we should be hysterical about it, I think we should have watchful caution.

Current Health and Safety guidelines for the Oculus Rift [a VR headset manufacturing company] lists a couple of possible side- effects with warnings ranging from seizures, nausea and dizziness for people engaged in prolonged use trouble with hand-to-eye coordination.

Dr. Mark Griffiths research offers some closure on the subject-matter, he said: 

The academic literature goes back to 1993, there was a case of a woman who had auditory hallucinations; she just couldn’t get the tune of the game she was playing out of her head – it was very intrusive. But what came out of our pilot research were lots of different experiences, some that were auditory, some visual and some were tactile. We had the example of a teacher who dropped his pen and immediately reached for a joypad button to retrieve it, as though he were in a game. We distinguished between what we call automatic G.T.P [game transfer phenomenon], which are almost like reflexes or classically conditioned responses, and those where players deliberately take elements out of the game and work them into their day-to-day routines. Go back to basic psychology and think of Pavlov and his dogs. If you’re in a game and doing something repetitively, you’re using the controls automatically, in the same way as an experienced driver can do it almost instinctively. So, if you come out of the game and come across a similar situation in real life, this conditioned response kicks in for a second or two. From our interviews it’s clear that gamers’ fully realise they’re not in a video game – they’re just taken back to it. It’s probably not that different from the way you may relive a TV programme or a film you’ve seen.

Onto the icing on the cake :

The effects of social media on youths.

Social media like law or religion is dynamic thus leaving room for various interpretations.To some it is a ”social” tool, to others it’s a business tool. I feel its a ”facade” and to Author Johan Hari; It’s a “parody” of genuine connection.

Is social media really a bad thing? The truth is it brings more positives than negatives.

  • First, ”information” spreads faster online than any other media outlet and more than 80% of youths learn about breaking news on social media.
  • Second, ”job opportunities” have been secured through social-media outlets like Twitter,Facebook and LinkedIn and is also great for professional marketing, connecting, and finding business opportunities.
  • Third, ”Political” and ”Educational” benefits for Politicians who utilise media-outlets to campaign and win votes with statistics stating that Nigeria’s 2016 Presidential Election was won through the influence of  social media more so for Lectures who use them to communicate to their students.
  • Lastly, ”communication”, it enables people interact or connect with friends and other loved ones home and away in more ways than one

Although the negatives may not be much they seem to be detrimental to the psychic.

  1. Research has shown that it gives a false sense of connection and studies from The University of Missouri has shown that having more friends on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you have a better social life—there seems to be a cap on the number of friends a person’s brain can handle, and it takes actual social interaction (not virtual) to keep up these friendships. So feeling like you’re being social by being on Facebook doesn’t work. Since loneliness is linked to myriad health and mental health problems (including early death), getting real social support is important. Virtual friend time doesn’t have the therapeutic effect as time with real friends and Further studies have shown that the majority of social media users tend to edit and post only their most attractive pictures, or ‘put a rose-tinted gloss over their lives’ in an effort to idealise themselves and, researchers believe, to improve others’ impressions of them.
  2. Advanced Fee Fraud Fraudsters : communicate and scam their clients easily through the aid of social media. A firm which analysed 8,503 cases across 152 countries in 2009, victims lost $9.3 billion in the last year alone, compared to $6.3 billion on 2008. Although the majority of AFF[Advanced Fee Fraud] is still organised by people living in Nigeria, it’s not always carried out by people there anymore—Ultrascan’s 225-page report says that a minimum of 51,761 scammers perpetrated their crimes from 69 other countries with another 250,000 doing so from Nigeria.
  3. Cyber-Bullying : has caused more than a town full of people here in Africa. We had a case in Nigeria where a girl was bullied by her pairs on twitter till she committed suicide an hour later also.
  4. Social Media Induced Depression : is also a major effect of social media. It is triggered by merely viewing others’ social media posts envious of the handlers lifestyle the mind is sent into an emotional frenzy.
  5. Decreased Productivity : while many businesses use social networking sites to find and communicate with clients, the sites can also prove a great distraction to employees who may show more interest in what their friends are posting than in their work tasks. Wired posted two studies which demonstrated damage to productivity caused by social networking: Nucleus Research reported that Facebook shaves 1.5% off office productivity while Morse claimed that British companies lost 2.2 billion a year to the social phenomenon. New technology products have become available that allow social networks to be blocked, but their effectiveness remains spotty.

Stephen Buka, Professor of Epidemiology at Brown during a research with his colleague  said:

This is as close as you can get to answering the question: Do adverse experiences [on Facebook] cause depression? We knew how the  participants were doing as kids before they had any Facebook use, then we saw what happened on Facebook, and then we saw how they were faring as young adults. It permits us to answer the ‘Chicken and Egg problem: Which comes first?‘ Adverse experiences on Facebook or depression, low self-esteem and the like?

The latter said:

I think it’s important that people take interactions on social media seriously and don’t think of it as somehow less impactful because it’s a virtual experience as opposed to an in-person experiences it’s a different forum that has real emotional consequences.

Conclusively, watch your digital coke intake, you just might overdose.

Daniel Ayuba

mental creative

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