How much time do you spend on your device each day? And when you pry yourself away from your social media feed do you feel enriched or enraged?
A 2016 study of Android users revealed that most users spent between 145 and 225 minutes a day on their smartphones and during that time touched their devices an average of 2,617 times. And that study was done last year. Given the “colorful” nature of current events, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that those numbers are much higher now.
What’s perhaps more unsettling than the study’s findings is contemplating the question: Are you controlling your device or is your device controlling you?
ADULT BABY MONITORS
If you haven’t heard of Tristan Harris, you may want to check him out. He’s a young Silicon Valley tech guy with a conscience who started Time Well Spent, “a non-profit movement to align technology with our humanity.” He was recently a guest on author Sam Harris’s podcast Waking Up where he revealed how the big tech companies use the power of persuasion to influence us. (Some serious brain power unleashed during that conversation – it’s worth a listen).
We appear to be moving toward “information overload” as the world grows more connected and more chaotic, and more chaotic because it’s more connected. Tristan suggested that the technology we use is not neutral, but that we’re being intentionally persuaded based on things that we respond to/click on. The more insidious this problem becomes the more difficult it’s going to be to discern the truth.
LOST IN VIRTUAL SPACE
Clearly this trend isn’t going away any time soon, but listening to the podcast got me thinking about our relationship with time, how we use our time, and regrets we may have if we start counting the minutes spent logged in. It seems like a good time to ask the question: Are we addicted to being plugged in – to being “informed,” to being “liked,” to having a platform to air our thoughts, grievances, and feelings? And if we are, what are the consequences of this addiction? Off the top of my very non-scientific head I’d guess they might manifest as a lower threshold for boredom, a decrease in critical thinking skills, and/or an increase in social withdrawal. At the very least I would think the hyper-stimulation experienced from the micro-bursts of Adrenalin we experience every time our device tries to get our attention would keep our nervous systems on edge. In other words, even though technology is supposed to make our lives easier, I’d bet my smartphone (if I had one) that we’re more stressed because of being plugged in.
If you’re concerned about any of these things, below are a few suggestions to help point your focus away from virtual reality and back in the general direction of physical reality:
Limit your Exposure
If you’re consistently feeling a bit on edge after your time in cyber-land or if you’re concerned about how much time you’re spending on your device, it might be worth experimenting with limiting your exposure for a few days to see if it makes a difference. Here are some easy ways to do that:
- Download a timer app and set it for what you consider to be a reasonable amount of time. Put your device away when the timer goes off
- Set a no-tech hour
- Unplug during dinner
- Don’t charge your device in your bedroom
Make a conscious choice to use your device for something that benefits you:
- Download a meditation app and start a daily practice
- Use technology to promote physical activity
Do something to relax your over-stimulated nervous system.
- Do a digital detox by planning a Wi-Fi-free vacation
- Schedule a massage or an Energy Genesis session
- Go for an old-school tech-free walk or bike ride
- Spend some time in nature and listen (An interesting side note: While taking a break from editing this article I went for a walk in Hubbard Park. Not long into the walk I came up behind a woman who was stopped along the path. I made some noise to let her know I was there, but she didn’t hear me because . . . wait for it, she was doing something on her phone. I ended up scaring the shit of her. She said to me, “I know, I know. I should put my phone away and enjoy this beautiful place.” )
If you experiment with any of these options, I’d love to hear how it went. Please feel free to share your experience in the comment section below.