Technology Dependency is About More than Our Mental Health
What kind of future do we choose?
How do we choose to relate to technology?
How do we choose to relate to other humans?
How do we choose to relate to the best version of ourselves?
Modern day digital technologies have an immense capacity to improve our lives and empower us as individuals, in groups or organizations, and have already proven their huge potential to improve society as a whole.
At the same time, however, we are more and more starting to realize the negative impact these technologies also have on our peace of mind, focused attention, productivity, relationships and overall psychological, social and environmental health and well-being.
Constant distraction vs. personal growth
Constant distraction is the opposite of focus on personal growth and the maximizing of potential. Research shows that the way we respond to cues from our devices and the apps on them, neurologically is closely linked to the patterns of substance or gambling addiction.
Platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using them as much as possible.
And add to that a pressure on our innate need for social approval.
Scientists are showing us the alarming increase in rates of psychological problems such as feelings of loneliness, social exclusion, depression and related suicide among teens in developed economies.
A University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study found that adults age 19 to 32 who spend more time on social media are more likely to feel isolated from their peers and friends. A Pew Research survey found that one-quarter of people in romantic relationships say their partners are too distracted by their phones.
Focus, burnout and declining productivity
Many of us, I’m sure, can relate to the concept of lessening attention or focus — be it to work, a real-life event, or a personal conversation — due to smart, digital technology interrupting us. Or, due to us unlocking and checking our devices for new notifications and missed messages. Likes, and the like.
Burnouts and symptoms thereof rage rampant in the first quarter of this 21st century, and a feeling of fatigue, of being over-worked and constantly being caught up in the day-to-day issues is almost omnipresent. Surely these are exacerbated by a culture in which we all expect each other — and ourselves — to be online and connected 24/7/365.
The growth in productivity has stagnated and even declined over the second decade of this century. Think tank “The Conference Board”, the OECD and The Economist report that not only in the West, but also in China or emerging economies such as Brazil, Total Factor Productivity Growth has been in decline, turning out negative for the Global economy in 2015.
That feels paradoxical to many seeing the intense speed at which we are innovating in the realm of technology, automation and digital productivity tools. Wealth, meanwhile is accumulating and strongly concentrating in the hands of the few. We need to investigate this, wouldn’t you say?
Time to seriously reflect
What effect is our use of energy having on our internal and external environment? How does growth relate to evolution, harmony, balance, and sustainability? What do we choose?
We can change the course of history, at least for ourselves. We can create a shared vision, and use technology much, much smarter as individuals, in organizations and as a society.
What will it take for us to stop and make time to think about our maximum potential as human beings, and to consciously choose to invest our time, energy and attention toward unlocking that?
Are we addicted to our smartphone? How is it helping us become a better version of ourselves?
My new book “Life Beyond the Touch Screen” is out now, you can get it here as an e-book or paperback. It’s a meditational booklet designed to increase our consciousness around the impact of digital technology on our lives as individuals, in organizations and society. A reminder to choose. Take back your energy, focus, and time.