If time travelers from 15 years ago arrived in the year 2020, there are two things that would blow their minds. First, they’d ask, “Why is the host of ‘The Apprentice’ President of the United States?” Second, they’d wonder, “What is everyone staring at?”
Anywhere you go in public in 2020 you see people staring at their phones. They’re playing games, looking at Twitter, stalking their exes on Facebook or texting a friend photos of their lunch.
Smart phone technology has completely upended our reality
and we’re starting to learn that it’s not necessarily a good thing.
The former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya admitted that developers have done something seriously wrong by hacking into our brains via social media.
“I feel tremendous guilt,” Palihapitiya told students at Stanford University. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.”
Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook who resigned in 2005, agrees.
“The thought process was: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” he said in 2017. Parker says developers exploited a “vulnerability in human psychology,” by giving you a “little dopamine hit” whenever someone likes or comments on your post.
No wonder social media is so popular. These companies have
found easy ways to activate the same neural circuits that come alive when you
snort a line of cocaine or go on a winning run on the roulette wheel.
Developers at social media giants such as Facebook,
Snapchat, and Instagram are using our own neural wiring to keep us logged in
and clicking, liking, and favoriting as much as possible.
“Tech companies understand what causes dopamine surges in the brain, and they lace their products with ‘hijacking techniques’ that lure us in and create ‘compulsion loops,’” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote.
It’s no surprise that constant fixation with our smart phones and social media can have a massive effect on our mental well-being.
Studies show that spending too much time on your cell phone causes anxiety and depression. “The more people use their phone,” Dr. Nancy Cheever, who spearheaded research on the relationship between cellphone use and anxiety at California State University, Dominguez Hills, told ABC News, “the more anxious they are about using their phone.”
“If you’re constantly connected, you’re going to feel anxiety,” Cheever said. “And the more people feel anxiety, that can lead to other things like mental health and physical ailments.”
A disturbing new study found that teens who spent more than
five hours a day on their cell phones are 71% more likely to have one risk
factor for suicide.
Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study, says that it’s
best for adults and teens to spend two hours or less per day on their smart
“I think a great rule for both teens and adults is to try to keep your use at two hours a day or less,” she told NPR. “And then you put that phone down, and you spend the rest of your time on things that are better for mental health and happiness, like sleeping, seeing friends and family face to face, getting out and exercising.”
The problem with compulsive smart phone use is that it’s important for most people to be connected to the internet for their professional and social lives. The key is to develop solId habits that allow you to put your phone down when necessary.
But this is difficult given the power that a quick, harmless dopamine hit can have over our psyches.
The good news is there are plenty of apps on the market that can help you limit your time on your phone.
App Detox – Android
AppDetox helps you take a digital detox by setting your own
rules for your apps. Every time you break a rule with an app, AppDetox reminds
you to take a break. This app also allows parents to control of their kids’
Moment – iOS
Moment automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and
iPad each day. Like AppDetox, it allows you to set limits on app use and alerts
you when you’ve gone over. You can even force yourself off your device when
you’re over your limit.
Clear Lock – Android
ClearLock is designed to boost your productivity by blocking all the distracting apps on your phone. You choose the apps and then select how long you’d like them off.
Photo Credit: Pixabay, Gecko and Fly.