"online almost constantly"

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Big Think mentioned a disturbing Pew study [see here] which found that 26% of Americans are 'almost constantly' online:

77% of American adults go online daily. while 43% are on several times per day. Only 11% of adults said they didn't use the internet at all. This rapid rise in near constant use has been attributed to the pervasiveness of smart phones.

Last November, electronics insurer Asurion completed a study that found that the average American checks their phone every 12 minutes, or about 80 times per day. Many respondents struggled to go just 10 minutes without looking at their phone, Asurion researchers said. According to a survey by Qualtrics and Accel, millennials check their phones even more often, 150 times per day on average.

"So what are the implications?" they ask:

Studies have shown that those who are constantly connected are more stressed, feel lonelier, and are more likely to experience depression or a sleep disorder. A 2015 University of Missouri study, found that regular use of social media platforms increased the likelihood of envy and depression.

In the Asurion survey, 31% of respondents felt separation anxiety when they couldn't check their phone. While 60% were stressed when their phone was off, charging, or out of reach. Most millennials don't go any more than five hours without checking their phone, according to the Qualtrics and Accel study, which can be considered addictive behavior. Half of all millennials in that investigation actually checked their phone in the middle of the night.

It is worth noting that "such devices aren't offered by those who love us, but who want money, which in this model is earned by placing the right ads in front of you as often as possible." Accordingly, "The best thing to do then for the sake of your own mental health, is to limit exposure:"

Consider turning your phone off and putting it in a drawer for certain hours of the day, and allow those closest to you other means such as a landline, to contact you in case of emergency. Also, social media and online interactions should never trump real, offline ones. If you find yourself wasting too much time online, get up and talk to a coworker, schedule coffee with a friend or a friendly acquaintance, or just take a walk and stretch your legs. If you can be conscious of your internet use and carefully consider dosage, chances are, you'll be more productive and happier too.

NYRB's Madeleine Bunting refers to this effort as disarming the weapons of mass distraction:

Technology provides us with new tools to grab people's attention. These innovations are dismantling traditional boundaries of private and public, home and office, work and leisure. Emails and tweets can reach us almost anywhere, anytime. There are no cracks left in which the mind can idle, rest, and recuperate. A taxi ad offers free wifi so that you can remain "productive" on a cab journey. [...]

What, then, are the implications of how digital technologies are transforming our patterns of attention? In the current political anxiety about social mobility and inequality, more weight needs to be put on this most crucial and basic skill: sustaining attention.

The work of the psychologist B.F. Skinner--specifically the concept of "variable-ratio reinforcement," which can be summarized as "Give the pigeon a food pellet sometimes, and you have it well and truly hooked"--is eminently useful with regards to smartphones, because "We're just like the pigeon pecking at the button when we check our email or phone:"

Variable reinforcement ensures that the customer will keep coming back. It's the principle behind one of the most lucrative US industries: slot machines, which generate more profit than baseball, films, and theme parks combined. Gambling was once tightly restricted for its addictive potential, but most of us now have the attentional equivalent of a slot machine in our pocket, beside our plate at mealtimes, and by our pillow at night. Even during a meal out, a play at the theater, a film, or a tennis match. Almost nothing is now experienced uninterrupted.

Anxiety about the exponential rise of our gadget addiction and how it is fragmenting our attention is sometimes dismissed as a Luddite reaction to a technological revolution. But that misses the point. The problem is not the technology per se, but the commercial imperatives that drive the new technologies and, unrestrained, colonize our attention by fundamentally changing our experience of time and space, saturating both in information.

Bunting writes that "We actually need what we most fear: boredom:"

Despite my children's multitasking, I maintain that vital human capacities--depth of insight, emotional connection, and creativity--are at risk. I'm intrigued as to what the resistance might look like. There are stirrings of protest with the recent establishment of initiatives such as the Time Well Spent movement, founded by tech industry insiders who have become alarmed at the efforts invested in keeping people hooked. But collective action is elusive; the emphasis is repeatedly on the individual to develop the necessary self-regulation, but if that is precisely what is being eroded, we could be caught in a self-reinforcing loop.

HBR's Larry Rosen suggests 6 ways to counteract your smartphone addiction, including the following:

Use "cc" and "reply all" judiciously.

Recalibrate response time expectations.

My suggested middle ground--used in several multinational companies including Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom-- is a 7am-to-7pm policy: messages can, of course, be sent at any hour, but no one is required to respond earlier than 7am or later than 7pm.

Take regular, restorative breaks.

Reclaim friend and family time.

Keep technology out of the bedroom.

As Rosen summarizes:

Over the past decade technology has taken over our lives. While it offers access to information, connection and entertainment, it also has been shown to diminish our brainpower and harm our mental health. These six tactics--which you can implement for yourself or encourage on your team--are simple ways to ensure these ubiquitous devices do less harm than good.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 20, 2018 5:39 PM.

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