The Dopamine Trap: Are Smartphones Stealing Your Joy?

February 12, 2024
Recent statistics indicate that the typical individual dedicates approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes daily to their smartphone usage. Furthermore, about 20% of smartphone users average more than 4.5 hours on their devices each day.
Interestingly, people tend to use their smartphones more on weekdays than on weekends. On average, they look at their phones 58 times a day. Over half of these checks, around 30 times a day, happen during work hours.
The Philippines leads with the highest average daily smartphone usage at 5 hours and 47 minutes. In contrast, Japan has the lowest average at 1 hour and 29 minutes per day. Meanwhile, in India, the average time spent on smartphones is 4 hours and 5 minutes.
The global mobile industry, valued at over $1 trillion, is experiencing continuous growth year after year. Since 2016, the number of smartphone users has consistently increased and is expected to maintain this upward trend for at least the next five years. In 2016, the world saw around 3.67 billion smartphone subscriptions. This figure has seen an annual increase of between 300 million to 800 million, reaching an estimated 6.57 billion in 2022. Projections suggest that by 2027, there will be around 7.69 billion smartphone subscriptions, nearly matching the current global population, falling short by just 200 million.
The smartphone market in India, boasting over 600 million users, has a diverse age demographic, with 53% of its users being between the ages of 18 and 24.
For a lot of us, checking our phones is the first thing we do when we wake up and the last thing before we go to bed. It's a constant urge, controlled by chemicals in our brains.
One specific chemical, dopamine, is often pointed out for causing this behavior. It's known as the 'feel-good' chemical because it helps control the brain's reward system.
However, it's not only the feeling of pleasure that affects us – our brain's dopamine receptors also react to the expectation of something enjoyable. This anticipation is what drives us to keep checking our phones.
Mobile games and social media applications are crafted to keep that urge going.
Dr. Mahesh Gowda, a leading psychiatrist at Spandana Hospitals in Bangalore, thinks that smartphones are like syringes, providing a constant flow of 'digital dopamine' to billions of people.
Mahesh explains that digital media triggers the same area of our brains that drugs and alcohol do, releasing dopamine. With regular use, our brains adjust by reducing dopamine activity. This can happen through the shrinking of dopamine receptors.
With continuous exposure, our brains can end up in a state where there's not enough dopamine, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, irritability, and strong desires. When this occurs, we start using digital media not to do something specific, but to escape this low dopamine state and feel better.
There's a lot of discussion about whether addictions to behaviors, such as excessive social media use, should be considered as serious as drug addictions. Some people argue they shouldn't be compared because, although using digital media does lead to more dopamine being released, it's much less than what drugs like cocaine or methamphetamines release.
Cocaine and methamphetamines are powerful, addictive stimulant drugs that significantly increase dopamine levels in the brain, leading to intense euphoria or happiness and high risk of addiction.
Whether we're addicted or not, we in India spend an average of four hours a day on our phones. Many of us likely want to reduce that time. So, could we use what we know about how our brain's reward system works to reduce our phone usage? It might be possible.
Dopamine fasting is a concept you might have come across, ironically, on social media platforms like Instagram. It's a type of meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy aimed at controlling impulsive behaviors and altering habits. The strategy involves deliberately avoiding overstimulating activities - like social media - for a brief period to manage compulsive urges.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing thought patterns to manage and reduce impulsive actions, helping individuals make better choices and control their behaviors more effectively.
Supporters say that taking a short break helps them enjoy their real interests more and improves their relationship with technology. However, critics argue that there's not much proof to back up these statements.
Still, experts studying too much social media use usually think that some form of digital break is beneficial.
"I really support taking breaks from social media," says Dr. A Jagadish, a well-known psychiatrist at Abhaya Hospitals in Bangalore. "A weekend without it can help change habits so that regular social media use might be reduced."
"My observations and experiences show that spending time with friends and family outside of social media, in the real world, results in positive feelings, strengthens bonds, and enhances feelings of togetherness," Jagadish notes. "Therefore, meeting a friend for coffee might be more fulfilling than chatting with them through Messenger."
By Girish Linganna
To submit your article / poem / short story to Daijiworld, please email it to mentioning 'Article/poem submission for daijiworld' in the subject line. Please note the following:

  • The article / poem / short story should be original and previously unpublished in other websites except in the personal blog of the author. We will cross-check the originality of the article, and if found to be copied from another source in whole or in parts without appropriate acknowledgment, the submission will be rejected.
  • The author of the poem / article / short story should include a brief self-introduction limited to 500 characters and his/her recent picture (optional). Pictures relevant to the article may also be sent (optional), provided they are not bound by copyright. Travelogues should be sent along with relevant pictures not sourced from the Internet. Travelogues without relevant pictures will be rejected.
  • In case of a short story / article, the write-up should be at least one-and-a-half pages in word document in Times New Roman font 12 (or, about 700-800 words). Contributors are requested to keep their write-ups limited to a maximum of four pages. Longer write-ups may be sent in parts to publish in installments. Each installment should be sent within a week of the previous installment. A single poem sent for publication should be at least 3/4th of a page in length. Multiple short poems may be submitted for single publication.
  • All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format or text file. Pictures should not be larger than 1000 pixels in width, and of good resolution. Pictures should be attached separately in the mail and may be numbered if the author wants them to be placed in order.
  • Submission of the article / poem / short story does not automatically entail that it would be published. Daijiworld editors will examine each submission and decide on its acceptance/rejection purely based on merit.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to edit the submission if necessary for grammar and spelling, without compromising on the author's tone and message.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to reject submissions without prior notice. Mails/calls on the status of the submission will not be entertained. Contributors are requested to be patient.
  • The article / poem / short story should not be targeted directly or indirectly at any individual/group/community. Daijiworld will not assume responsibility for factual errors in the submission.
  • Once accepted, the article / poem / short story will be published as and when we have space. Publication may take up to four weeks from the date of submission of the write-up, depending on the number of submissions we receive. No author will be published twice in succession or twice within a fortnight.
  • Time-bound articles (example, on Mother's Day) should be sent at least a week in advance. Please specify the occasion as well as the date on which you would like it published while sending the write-up.

Comment on this article

  • flavian, chik

    Tue, Feb 13 2024

    Its time we give it a thought !!!I feel limiting the number of hours and also limiting the number of people to stay in touch ...ex instead of wishing everyone on any occasion like birthdays you have in the many groups just wish ones near and dear to you ...more meaningful personal experiences will be better and useful .....but people like popularity ,name and fame and think its easy via social media

Leave a Comment

Title: The Dopamine Trap: Are Smartphones Stealing Your Joy?

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.