“Your phone is an addiction machine,” Dr. Greg Carson, a psychologist based in Los Angeles, writes in a new article titled Are You Addicted to Your Phone? “It’s like having a casino in your pocket with lots of little slot machines (apps) that continually beg for your attention with buzzes, dings and flashes. Then it rewards you for glancing at it with treats in the form of texts, pics and likes.”
OK. So what exactly does this have to do with us?
Well, it turns out that gay men are especially susceptible to becoming addicted to their phones because of dating apps.
Dr. Carson explains that there’s this thing called Variable Ratio Reinforcement, or as he describes it, “a fancy psychological term that means your treats come in an unpredictable pattern (just like slot machines). So the more you play, the more your brain thinks something good is just around the corner. Eventually you’re hooked.”
“Dating apps are the worst offenders,” he continues. “Much like the more generic slot machines of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, dating apps give you unpredictable reinforcements like woofs, unlocks and matches—and lots of ‘Hey’ and ‘Sup.’ But unlike those other platforms, dating apps center around one primary goal: sex.”
“The resulting sexual arousal when looking at these apps makes us feel more powerful, more alert and more alive,” he continues. “That makes them the most enticing slot machines (slut machines?) in your pocket casino.”
Of course, it’s not just dating apps feeding our addictions to our phones. Dr. Carson says apps, in general, contribute, as well as good old fashioned text messages.
So what can be done about this?
The answer: Not much. Sure, you could delete your Grindr account, but you’ll probably just download it again next week.
“I’m not saying you need to enter rehab or give up apps altogether,” Dr. Carson says, “but I am saying you might want to wake up to the fact that you’re less in charge of your obsession with that little brick in your pocket than you think. It’s hijacking your brain.”
Thanks, Dr. Carson.