Our lives are completely run by apps on our phones. Let me explain…
Every morning, I wake up and turn off the alarm on my phone. I then check my notifications, which usually consist of emails in my inbox, social media likes/comments, and messages from friends who think its socially acceptable to start a conversation at 3 AM. When I arrive at work, I frequently check Whatsapp in case my boss had to share something on the fly with me. Throughout the day, I browse Instagram, LinkedIn, and Buzzfeed. These “app breaks” are almost like those a smoker would take. Just being able to scroll mindlessly helps me decompress.
After seven long weeks of researching deep work, focus, and technology for my master’s coursework, I realized that the majority of my stress was coming from places designed to do so. Each feature on my smartphone was carefully created to elicit a neurological response and hormone release so that it became harder and harder to put down. After learning that I spent upwards of three hours a day just on my iPhone alone, I began to astutely observe exactly how technology impacted my life.
After tracking my usage, I confirmed that at the end of an average day, I would be spending at least 14 hours of it in front of a screen. Quantifying my usage and becoming more aware of it, made it easy to see the negative impacts of smartphones and social media. The constant typing and tapping on my tech caused old injuries in my wrists and hands to become inflamed. My sleep was so affected that I would often time struggle to stay awake during the morning commute. Life became increasingly more sedentary, more depressing, and it was a miracle if I ever managed to get outside. This realization caused me to feel disappointed in myself – this wasn’t optimal and it certainly didn’t feel like living anymore.
During my Data Detox, it was clear that I felt so much better once I was finally able to relinquish my screens. I paid more attention to the important things, and I even felt like I smiled more. This experience urged me to talk about what I had been feeling and to spread the knowledge I’ve learned. My white paper “Get Deep: Improving Your Health and Wellness by Changing Your Mind” culminates technology addiction, deep work, and the research conducted on this blog so that others can start recognizing and reestablishing their personal relationship with their tech, mind, and body.
Last night, I had an epiphany while waiting in line at Walmart to use the self-checkout – I know it sounds crazy, but let me set the scene… It was Friday night when my significant other and I went out to do some last minute shopping. I was attending a bridal shower over the weekend and I needed some finishing touches to complete my gift. After choosing the perfect bag to complement the themed card and tissue paper, we trudged our way over to the checkout lines. In true Walmart fashion, only five of the near twenty lanes were open. Disgruntled by the slow cashiers and their customers hauling abundant carts, we decided the self-checkout line would be our best bet. As we walked, the overflow of stuff in my arms caused me to surrender my phone, keys, and wallet to my boyfriend who then stowed them in his massive pockets. Jealous of his functional clothing, I parked myself in the line and waited. The line was easily ten people long – this was going to take a while. My boyfriend, without hesitation, took out his phone and started playing a game. I glanced over, stretching my neck to be included. With my hands full and with my phone in his pocket, I had nothing to do but just stand there. After a while, the itch to scroll through my phone became insatiable. If I couldn’t do it, I rationalized, Max shouldn’t be able to either. “Put your phone away!” I snapped. He looked at me incredulously, mumbled a response, and continued playing. Was I really getting snippy because he had the ability to use his phone while I couldn’t? Why, yes I was! As the line crawled, the craving to look at my iPhone screen grew, and with a rush of disappointment, I realized that I couldn’t cope without my technological crutch. I couldn’t handle being bored.
Data is all around us. It is within the books you read, the numbers at work, and it resides in your personal life – hiding in your computer, bills, and cell phone. If you work in a modern corporate environment, you would know that “Big Data” is all the rage right now. Big data is essentially more complex data sets stemming from new data sources. By utilizing top-of-the-line technology, these massive volumes of data can help us solve problems that were once very difficult to define solutions for like operational efficiency, customer experience, and product development. In a very short amount of time, big data has become extremely important capital and drives some of the most successful tech companies today.
Picture this: You’re in the passenger seat of your friend’s car. There is pop music playing and the windows are rolled down a little, letting in the crisp breeze. You scroll through your Instagram feed while listening to your friend talk about their horrific day at work. Your eyes glance up from your phone occasionally, taking in the surroundings passing by. Badly designed electronic billboard ads and gaudy signs for fast food joints stick out. Those, of course, are boring, so you lose interest in them quickly. Your Instagram feed quickly sucks you back in again. Ads for new clothes and niche products intersperse the feed. Maybe you’ll buy one in the hopes that it’ll change your life. You double tap your thumb at almost every passing post, hoping that in turn, your friends will like back. You hear your name being called, and then again with more angst. Your friend glares at you, and as you look up to speak your phone vibrates, it’s an email. You have unlocked your favorite store’s “diamond membership” and they sent you an exclusive coupon code. Your friend sighs in exasperation as you click through the email and goes silent, turning up the music in response. You try to get them to talk again but they won’t look your way. Oh well, at least now you can go tend to those tempting notifications…let’s see what’s on sale…
How many times have you found yourself looking at your phone when you’re supposed to be doing something important? Five times, ten times? If you’re a typical working professional, this number easily skyrockets to at least 80 times a day. Now that’s significant! Scrolling your thumb on a phone’s smooth screen is satisfying, for people of any age – but is this seemingly innocent addiction harmful? The answer to that is yes. Studies show that the presence of a cell phone, even when it is turned off, affects our cognitive capacity; in other words, our ability to learn and perform tasks. The habitual compulsion to check our phones derives from it being a device that is constantly relevant – we can achieve nearly anything with this portable tech in a matter of seconds. While cell phones are great for boosting efficiency, people who are too attached to them may experience social impairment and health issues. Clearly, cell phones have evolved from commodity items to negative objects that slowly, and unapologetically, eat away our focus.