Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Boredom and technology addiction

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Boredom and technology addiction
What is the relationship between boredom and technology addiction and what can be done about it?

Overview[edit | edit source]

In the current innovative society, a steady increase of advancements in technology is prevalent, now more than ever modern technology is easily accessible to everyone. This allow individuals who suffer from boredom to be able to use computer PCs, tablets, mobile phones, smart televisions all compatible with internet connection to have access to content and communication can be done via the touch of your fingers. With technology being so readily available, addiction in usage are also an arising issue amongst users of such technology, internet addiction is a dominant type of technology addiction seen today in all ages.

This chapter aims to explore the relationship between boredom and technology addiction and discuss what are some of the solutions available to combat these issues. Through the exploration of emotion theories this chapter outlines how and why boredom is linked to technology addiction and the psychological problems that result from it. The chapter begins with outlining what boredom and technology addiction is, involving descriptives of key characteristics and theories. Next, the exploration of the relationship and technology addiction is discussed in consideration of theories and research found. Finally, techniques and interventions of how technology/internet addiction can treated and remedied is explored.

Focus questions:

  • What is boredom and technology addiction?
  • Why do bored individuals suffer from technology addiction?
  • What psychological problems are correlated with technology addiction?
  • What can be implemented to help technology addiction?

Definitions[edit | edit source]

What is boredom?[edit | edit source]

In conventional usage, boredom is an emotional and occasionally psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in their surroundings, or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious. It is also understood by scholars as a modern phenomenon which has a cultural dimension. "There is no universally accepted definition of boredom. But whatever it is, researchers argue, it is not simply another name for depression or apathy. It seems to be a specific mental state that people find unpleasant—a lack of stimulation that leaves them craving relief, with a host of behavioural, medical and social consequences (Koerth-Baker, 2016).

Different scholars use different definitions of boredom, which complicates research. Koerth-Baker (2016), insists that boredom has been defined by Cynthia D. Fisher in terms of its main central psychological processes: "an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest and difficulty concentrating on the current activity." Mark Leary et al. describe boredom as "an affective experience associated with cognitive attentional processes." In positive psychology, boredom is described as a response to a moderate challenge for which the subject has more than enough skill" (Koerth-Baker, 2016).

Figure 1. Disinterested girl who is bored, depicts boredom by looking out the window. People who experience boredom tend to portray a monotony attitude.

Boredom can be normal, and is only an indicator of underlying disease when feelings become excessive, all-consuming and interfere with daily living. Trying new activities or changing routines may help relieve boredom. For some people, boredom may also be an ideal time to spark creativity and innovation.

What is technology addiction?[edit | edit source]

Technology is everywhere, and it is not going away. People stare down at their iPhones, or keep their eyes glued to a tablet or laptop, instead of observing the world around them. It's not unusual to see two adolescents seated together on a bus, texting furiously on their mobiles rather than talking to one another. The fact that teens are so dependent on technology makes sense in our world, but it may also lead to negative consequences (, 2017).

Technology addiction can be defined as frequent and obsessive technology-related behaviour increasingly practiced despite negative consequences to the user of the technology. An over-dependence on tech can significantly impact peoples' lives. While we need technology to survive in a modern social world, a severe over-reliance on technology—or an addiction to certain facets of its use—can also be socially devastating. Tech dependence can lead to teen consequences that span from mild annoyance when away from technology to feelings of isolation, extreme anxiety, and depression (Koerth-Baker, 2016).

Causation of addiction towards technology[edit | edit source]

Technology fulfils our natural human need for stimulation, interaction, and changes in environment with great efficiency. When teenagers experience stress, be it romantic rejection or a poor grade on an exam, technology can become a quick and easy way to fill basic needs, and as such, can become addictive.

Technology impacts the pleasure systems of the brain in ways similar to substances. It provides some of the same reward that alcohol and other drugs might: it can be a boredom buster, a social lubricant, and an escape from reality (Hazelden Betty Ford Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Centers, 2017).

Video and computer games, smart phones and tablets, social media and the Internet provide a variety of access points that can promote dependence on technology and negative consequences for youth:

  1. The Internet: The Web can be addictive, as a multifunctional tool that brings us exceptionally close to an enormous amount of information at unprecedented speeds. User-friendly by design, we now have access to the Internet on our computers, through apps on our tablets, phones and watches (, 2017). "FOMO," or "Fear of Missing Out," is a commonly described phenomenon for teens and young adults, in which youth increasingly feel the need to stay connected to the Internet, so they aren't the last to know of a news story or social happening (, 2017). Related to FOMO, some Facebook users, for instance, report that they use the Internet-based social media platform as a chosen method to alleviate their anxiety or depression (, 2017). With so much accessibility to its use, the Internet is just as hard to stay away from at any given point in a day as it is easy and rewarding to use.
  2. Video and Computer games: One hallmark of human psychology is that we want to feel competent, autonomous, and related to other people (, 2017). Challenging video games allow players to feel that they are good at something, games offer a great variety of choice to players, promoting a sense of autonomy for teens who might feel otherwise out of control (, 2017). Gamers find themselves linked to others who share their hobby through YouTube channels or subreddits dedicated to discussion of their game of choice with other enthusiasts (, 2017). Convenient like the internet, games make themselves increasingly accessible to teens via apps on smart phones, never leaving kids' palms or pockets (, 2017). While there is room for social connection in the gaming universe, this space also provides a potential escape from reality into a digital world where players get to assume new identities more appealing or more novel than those they hold in the real life (, 2017).
  3. Smart phones, tablets, and lifestyle technologies: These highly-mobile, flexible machines have the power to constantly stay connect (, 2017). Smart phones and tablets, and the emergence of other smart devices from the Apple Watch to Fitbit and Garmin, promote addiction by removing the time lapse from tasks and activities that previously required logging into a desk-bound, or at least a backpack-bound, computer source (, 2017).
  4. Social media: Social media presents individually-relevant information in the easiest ways—centralised, personalised portals, like a Facebook newsfeed, YouTube subscription, or Snapchat follower-ship (, 2017). Whether it's a Skype conversation with our grandmother overseas or a Twitter reply to the Prime Minister, social media feeds our need for human connection by allowing us to share feedback with those who are far from us in time, geography, or social status (, 2017). As social animals, we need human contact for emotional and psychological health. The appeal of social media is that it helps us to fill social needs without the efforts or restraints of in-person contact (, 2017).

Relationship between Boredom and Risk in Technology Addiction[edit | edit source]

Risks in technology use[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. People seen glued on their phones with wall art depicting the same. By Jeanne Menjoulet.

While technology is certainly not all bad, its overuse can pose certain key risks. Technology can give individuals a false sense of relational security as they communicate with unseen individuals around the world. The speed with which technology moves makes everything a person might be looking for available within seconds, which encourages an unhealthy desire for instant gratification (, 2017). A slow internet connection or “unplugging” can promote irritability and anxiety for someone otherwise used to constant connection through technology (, 2017).

Sleep disorders can develop as individuals stay up all night to play with technology, and as a result, academic, athletic, work and social performance can suffer (, 2017). Weight gain and other complications of a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, such as cardiovascular disease, may result. In-person social skills may deteriorate (, 2017).

Within a technology-addicted individual, the mind becomes increasingly unable to distinguish between the lived and the alternate realities that produce instant stimulation, pleasure, and reward (, 2017). As such, the extreme use of technology can disrupt normal patterns of mood and socialisation in individuals. Dependency upon social media, gaming, or other platforms to function can become the new and unhealthy "normal" (, 2017).

Boredom proneness and internet addiction among individuals with ADHD[edit | edit source]

Internet addiction has substantial adverse effects on physical and mental health and interpersonal relationships; it also diminishes the academic performance of adolescents (Young, 1996). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common psychiatric disorder among adolescents with Internet addiction (Bozkurt et al., 2013). The risk of Internet addiction was significantly associated with the severity of ADHD symptoms among adolescents in community (Yen et al., 2007). A prospective community study also indicated that ADHD predicts the occurrence of Internet addiction in adolescents during a 2-year follow-up period (Ko et al., 2009). The results of previous studies support the observation that Internet addiction warrants early prevention in adolescents with ADHD.

High boredom proneness has been considered one of the core symptoms in individuals with ADHD, which usually results in impaired academic function and difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Adults with high boredom proneness performed poorly on measures of sustained attention and exhibited increased symptoms of ADHD (Malkovsky, Merrifield, Goldberg & Danckert, 2012). Given that Internet use can provide rapid responses, immediate rewards, and multiple windows with different activities, which may reduce the feeling of boredom, the hypothesis that high boredom proneness is significantly associated with the risk of Internet addiction among adolescents with ADHD is reasonable (Ko et al., 2009).

This study examined the associations between boredom proneness and Internet addiction and activities as well as the moderating effects of demographic, parental, and ADHD characteristics on these associations in adolescents with ADHD. We have three hypotheses. First, the scores for the lack of internal stimulation and external stimulation on the BPS-SF measuring boredom proneness are significantly associated with the risk of Internet addiction in adolescents with ADHD. Second, boredom proneness has various relationships with different types of Internet activities. Third, due to the scarcity of previous studies, we hypothesised that the demographic, parental, and ADHD characteristics moderate the association between boredom proneness and Internet addiction and activities in adolescents with ADHD. The participants’ demographic, parental, and ADHD characteristics, Internet addiction and activities, and boredom proneness are presented in Table 1 as seen below.

Table 1.

Demographic characteristics, ADHD and Internet usage characteristics, and the levels of boredom proneness (adapted findings from Chou et al., 2018)

n (%) Mean (SD) Range
Girls 41 (13.7)
Boys 259 (86.3)
Age (years) 12.8 (1.8) 10-18
ADHD symptoms on the SNAP-IV
Inattention 12.7 (5.8) 0-27
Hyperactivity/impulsivity 8.8 (6.0) 0-27
Receiving medication for ADHD 254 (84.7)
Having Internet addiction 42 (14.0)
Internet activities
Online gaming 264 (88.0)
Online chatting 212 (70.7)
Online watching movie 248 (82.7
Online studying 100 (33.3)
Boredom proneness on the BPS-SF
Lack of internal stimulation 24.6 (7.0) 6-42
Lack of external stimulation 18.3 (7.5) 6-42

ADHD: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; BPS-SF: Boredom Proneness Scale-Short Form; SNAP-IV: Swanson, Nolan, and Pelham, Version IV Scale.

Co-morbid psychiatric symptoms and internet addiction[edit | edit source]

Results from a study conducted by Chou et al., (2007) demonstrated that adolescents with Internet addiction had higher ADHD symptoms, depression, social phobia, and hostility. Higher ADHD symptoms, depression, and hostility are associated with Internet addiction in male adolescents, and only higher ADHD symptoms and depression are associated with Internet addiction in female students (Yen et al., 2007). Several factors have been associated with excessive internet use; psychopathological, social, personality traits.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)[edit | edit source]

ADHD has been repeatedly linked to addiction. ADHD is a behavioural disorder defined by either an attentional dysfunction, hyperactive/impulsive behaviour or both (DSM-5). It is the most common neuro-developmental disorder and its worldwide prevalence in children and adolescence is 3.4% (Panagiotidi & Overton, 2018). The symptoms persist into adulthood in roughly half of the children diagnosed with ADHD. Therefore, ADHD has also been validated as an adulthood disorder, with remaining symptoms in adults including distractibility and difficulties with maintaining goal-directed behaviour rather than hyperactivity (Panagiotidi & Overton, 2018). In addition to this, ADHD psychopathology can be viewed dimensionally, with inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms distributed continuously in the general population.

Certain traits found in those with ADHD (e.g. impulsivity, boredom, restlessness) have been shown to play a key role in addiction (Panagiotidi & Overton, 2018). In particular, being diagnosed with ADHD has been linked to illegal substance use at a younger age, when not treated with medication and stimulant therapy (Panagiotidi & Overton, 2018). Individuals with ADHD also demonstrate addictive behaviour with forms of interactive media. In addition to this, problematic use of technology has been found in individuals with high level of ADHD symptoms but without a diagnosis. Previous research suggests that there is a positive relationship between ADHD and Internet Addiction (IA) in adolescents and young adults (Panagiotidi & Overton, 2018). Ko et al. (2009), found that students with IA are more likely to have adult ADHD. A 2-year prospective study found that adolescents diagnosed as ADHD were the most likely to be addicted to the Internet than other psychiatric symptoms such as hostility and social phobia (Ko et al., 2009). The bio-psychosocial model of ADHD proposes that “being easily bored” and “having an aversion for delayed rewards” are two key symptoms in ADHD (Yen et al., 2007). Both symptoms can be related to excessive internet use; being online can decrease the feeling of boredom and provide immediate rewards. Thus, ADHD could be a possible risk factor that may lead to IA.

Depression[edit | edit source]

Adolescents and children are more vulnerable to pathologic Internet use as they have less ability to control their enthusiasm for something that awakens their interests, like Internet or computer games. Continuously escaping from real life into cyberspace is often associated with serious problems in daily life for adolescents. In a study conducted by Ha et al. (2007), internet addiction was significantly associated with depressive symptoms and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Regarding biogenetic temperament and character patterns, high harm avoidance, low directness, low cooperativeness and high self-transcendence were correlated with Internet addiction. In a multivariate analysis, among clinical symptoms depression was most closely related to Internet addiction, even after controlling for differences in biogenetic temperament (Ha et al., 2007). This study reveals a significant association between Internet addiction and depressive symptoms in adolescents. This association is supported by temperament profiles of the Internet addiction group.

In another study by Dieres-Hirch et al. (2017), depressive patients with and without Internet addiction were compared regarding depression severity and psychological stress. In addition, predictors of Internet addiction in depressive patients were investigated. The results presented significantly higher tendencies for Internet addiction in the group of depressive patients. The prevalence of Internet addiction in this group was considerably high (36%). In addition, depressive patients with Internet addiction showed consistently but insignificantly higher symptom severity and psychological stress compared with patients without Internet addiction (Dieris-Hirche et al., 2017). Both groups of depressive patients were significantly higher burdened with depressive symptoms and psychological stress than the healthy controls. Low age and male sex were particularly important predictors of Internet addiction in the group of depressive patients. The results are in accordance with previously published findings in other fields of addiction disorders.

Social phobia[edit | edit source]

Social phobia is defined as being afraid of being evaluated by others and a state of experiencing abasement, embarrassment, or fear of becoming a laughing stock due to behaviours (Koyuncu, Alkin & Tükel, 2016). This negative psychological condition restrains individuals from entering into a social surrounding and establishing interpersonal relations, and impairs their quality of life. Social phobia observed especially during adolescence period affects adversely the social life of adolescents and prompts them to use the Internet as an alternative (Chen et al., 2011). Consequently, it causes social isolation as it is reported that individuals prefer to use the Internet to cope with stress caused by social phobia. In a study by Yayan et al. (2016), there was a positive correlation between Internet addiction and social phobia. The form of time spent on Internet was examined in terms of addiction and social phobia; although Internet addiction was related to games, dating sites, and web surfing, social phobia was related to homework, games, and web surfing. The hypothesis was that adolescents with social phobia were Internet addicts, and the participants used the Internet to spend time rather than socialise due to their existing or development of social phobia was valid (Yayan et al., 2016).

  1. ADHD, Depression and Social Phobia all correlated with Internet Addiction.
  2. Individuals diagnosed with either ADHD, Depression or Social Phobia are highly likely to suffer from Internet Addiction.
  3. Having an Internet Addiction also puts you at risk of developing symptoms of ADHD, Depression or Social Phobia.

Theoretical frameworks[edit | edit source]

A genetic study reported a genetic predisposition for chemical and behavioural addictions. In ‘reward deficiency syndrome’ theory, the lack of D2 receptors causes individuals to have a high risk for addictive, impulsive and compulsive behaviours, such as alcohol or nicotine dependence, technology addiction, pathologic gambling and conduct disorders. Sometimes this is framed as a pre-existing trait; sometimes it is framed as an acquired condition.

Reward deficiency syndrome theory[edit | edit source]

The dopaminergic system, and in particular the dopamine D2 receptor, has been implicated in reward mechanisms. The net effect of neurotransmitter interaction at the mesolimbic brain region induces "reward" when dopamine (DA) is released from the neuron at the nucleus accumbens and interacts with a dopamine D2 receptor. "The reward cascade" involves the release of serotonin, which in turn at the hypothalamus stimulates enkephalin, which inhibits GABA at the substania nigra, which in turn fine tunes the amount of DA released at the nucleus accumbens or "reward site" (Blum et al., 2000). It is well known that under normal conditions in the reward site DA works to maintain our normal drives. In fact, DA has become to be known as the "pleasure molecule" and/or the "anti-stress molecule."

When DA is released into the synapse, it stimulates a number a DA receptors (D1-D5) which results in increased feelings of well-being and stress reduction. A consensus of the literature suggests that when there is a dysfunction in the brain reward cascade, which could be caused by certain genetic variants (polygenic), especially in the DA system causing a hypo-dopaminergic trait, the brain of that person requires a DA fix to feel good. This trait leads to multiple drug-seeking behaviour because alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, nicotine, and glucose all cause activation and neuronal release of brain DA, which could heal the abnormal cravings (Blum et al., 2000). Certainly after ten years of study we could say with confidence that carriers of the DAD2 receptor A1 allele have compromised D2 receptors. Therefore lack of D2 receptors causes individuals to have a high risk for multiple addictive, impulsive and compulsive behavioural propensities, such as severe alcoholism, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and nicotine use, glucose bingeing, pathological gambling, sex addiction, ADHD, Tourette's Syndrome, autism, chronic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizoid/avoidant cluster, conduct disorder and antisocial behaviour. In order to explain the breakdown of the reward cascade due to both multiple genes and environmental stimuli (pleiotropism) and resultant aberrant behaviours, Blum united this hypo-dopaminergic trait under the rubric of a reward deficiency syndrome (Blum et al., 2000).

Control-value theory[edit | edit source]

The theory provides an integrative framework for analysing the antecedents and effects of emotions experienced in achievement and academic settings. It is based on the premise that appraisals of control and values are central to the arousal of achievement emotions, including activity-related emotions such as enjoyment, frustration, and boredom experienced at learning, as well as outcome emotions such as joy, hope, pride, anxiety, hopelessness, shame, and anger relating to success or failure.

One important feature of the control-value theory in a study by Blum et al. (2000), is not only the assumption of a linear relation between control and the emerging negative emotion boredom, but rather assuming that control and value appraisals determine achievement emotions in a complex non-linear pattern (Pekrun, 2006). It concluded that students’ boredom is not only influenced by value and control in an additive way but that they interact in a rather dynamical manner. More explicitly, the control-value theory postulates a non-compensatory relation of value and control in predicting boredom, so that the lowest degree of boredom implies increased value and control (Kögler & Göllner, 2018). Corollaries of the theory pertain to the multiplicity and domain specificity of achievement emotions; to their more distal individual and social antecedents, their effects on engagement and achievement, and the reciprocal linkages between emotions, antecedents and effects; to the regulation and development of these emotions; and to their relative universality across genders and cultures (Pekrun, 2006).

Quiz questions[edit | edit source]

1 "The reward cascade" involves the release of?

anti-stress molecule
pleasure molecule

2 The Control-value theory is based on the premise that appraisals of control and values are central to the arousal of achievement emotions.


Interventions and ways to treat internet addiction[edit | edit source]

A growing number of therapists and inpatient rehabilitation centres are often treating Web addicts with the same approaches, including 12-step programs, used to treat chemical addictions. Because the condition is not recognised in psychiatry as a disorder, insurance companies do not reimburse for treatment. So patients either pay out of pocket, or therapists and treatment centres bill for other afflictions, including the nonspecific impulse control disorder. There is at least one inpatient program, at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Ill., which admits patients to recover from obsessive computer use (Kershaw, 2005). Experts there said they see similar signs of withdrawal in those patients as in alcoholics or drug addicts, including profuse sweating, severe anxiety and paranoid symptoms.

Psychotherapy[edit | edit source]

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behaviour that are behind people's difficulties, and so change the way they feel.

Treatment programs developed by counsellors to understand what the attraction of internet is to the client is useful. Cognitive-based approaches are encouraged when dealing with individuals suffering from internet/technology addiction (Nichter & Edmonson, 2005). Such approach is recommended as they are proven to be particularly successful at treating internet addictions due to their direct focus of problem reduction and relapse prevention.

Pharmacotherapy[edit | edit source]

Escitalopram is used to treat depression and anxiety. It works by helping to restore the balance of a certain natural substance (serotonin) in the brain. Escitalopram belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI). In a study by Shaw & Black (2008), it was reported that escitalopram reduced the subject's urges for online gaming, which is an issue of a sub-category that falls under technology/online addictions (Shaw & Black, 2008).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In this chapter, it demonstrates the relationship between boredom and technology addiction and displays the many risks involved. A large focus on individuals with ADHD explained the relation of boredom and technology/internet addiction. Individuals suffering from ADHD possess restlessness, impulsivity and ultimately boredom which leads to a high risk of addiction and conveniently indefinitely internet addiction (IA). As the internet is easily accessible, extremely convenient and immediately able to entertain or feed a high psychologically especially to those who have ADHD as they constantly need that. Interventions can be implemented to help and support individuals with IA from counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrist. In regards to previous studies, either CBT which is a form of psychotherapy or escitalopram which is a form of pharmacotherapy may be used to treat those who possess an IA.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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Bozkurt, H., Coskun, M., Ayaydin, H., Adak, İ. and Zoroglu, S., 2013. Prevalence and patterns of psychiatric disorders in referred adolescents with Internet addiction. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 67(5), pp.352-359.

Chen, J., Lin, C., Wang, S., Liao, S., Chen, J., Liu, C., & Lee, M. (2011). Finding social phobia patients from the Internet. Psychiatry Research, 190(1), 121-125. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.03.022

Dieris-Hirche, J., Bottel, L., Bielefeld, M., Steinbüchel, T., Kehyayan, A., Dieris, B., & te Wildt, B. (2017). Media use and Internet addiction in adult depression: A case-control study. Computers In Human Behavior, 68, 96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.016

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Koerth-Baker, M., 2016. Why boredom is anything but boring. Nature, 529(7585), pp.146-148.

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Panagiotidi, M. and Overton, P., 2018. The relationship between internet addiction, attention deficit hyperactivity symptoms and online activities in adults. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 87, pp.7-11.

Pekrun, R. (2006). The Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions: Assumptions, Corollaries, and Implications for Educational Research and Practice. Educational Psychology Review, 18(4), 315-341. doi: 10.1007/s10648-006-9029-9

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Shaw, M., & Black, D. (2008). Internet Addiction. CNS Drugs, 22(5), 353-365. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200822050-00001

Vodanovich, S., 2003. Psychometric Measures of Boredom: A Review of the Literature. The Journal of Psychology, 137(6), pp.569-595.

Yayan, E., Arikan, D., Saban, F., Gürarslan Baş, N., & Özel Özcan, Ö. (2016). Examination of the Correlation Between Internet Addiction and Social Phobia in Adolescents. Western Journal Of Nursing Research, 39(9), 1240-1254. doi: 10.1177/0193945916665820

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External links[edit | edit source]