The difference between technology and slavery is that
slaves are fully aware that they are not free – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Technology has transformed interpersonal relationships – more people are reaching more people through social media platforms. People are using their digital media voices to tell sharable stories and stimulate engagement.
Problems are arising in that many people are trying to respond to too many things at the same time, causing themselves stress and anxiety. Some are taking in a lot of information without really processing it. Everyone is creating information and becoming victims of information overload. This generates several problems that need to be addressed.
The people born between the 1980s and the early 2000s are the Internet generation, the group that spearheaded the use of social media in our everyday lives. They are the selfish generation.
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (71%) think that many 18-to-29-year-olds (millennials) are basically selfish. They are self-absorbed and expect the world to come to them. A quick Google search of “millennials” results in lots of in-depth articles on this topic, calling them self-centered, and even narcissistic.
In 2013, Time Magazine had a story on Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation. (2) 50% of this group now describe themselves as political independents; 29 % are not affiliated with any religion. They are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income. Less than 20% of them say that most people can be trusted.
In 2014, William Deresiewicz stepped up the criticism with his book, The Miseducation of the American Elite, which recounts his experiences teaching undergraduates at Yale. He finds young adults to be privileged, incurious, uninterested in exploring the larger questions about the meaning of life, and unwilling to take intellectual risks. They are comfortably bourgeois, caring little about the inner self and the soul. (3)
In his bestseller, The Road to Character, David Brooks is gentler but equally convinced that the young lack an interest in and a language for a discussion of character and virtue. They are, he believes, “morally inarticulate.” (4)
Selfies Self Ease
The word selfie is now in the dictionary. Have you taken a selfie? I have, sometimes, when no one is available to take our photo. A selfie-stick is available to hold the smart-phone a few feet away after a time-delayed click. It turns out that many, including older people and even the elderly, are now take selfies. Some take lots of selfies and post the best one on Facebook or Instagram, which is self-promoting and narcissistic. (5)
Down the Rabbit Hole
Larry Kilham's new book, The Digital Rabbit Hole, imagines today’s version of Lewis Carroll’s classic book, Alice in Wonderland. In the introduction, Alice peeps into a book her sister is reading and wonders about its utility. Why read a book when people see everything in color, with sound, on their smartphone? (6)
The white rabbit appears, takes his smartphone out of a vest pocket and is agitated about being too late for tea. Alice taps her screen, which shows a live video of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Alice then falls down the rabbit hole into Cyberland.
Larry Kilham says that this is no longer a fantasy. More and more people, and especially almost all of the younger generation, are falling down this digital rabbit hole into the cyberspace of technology filled with smartphones and smart devices. They no longer engage with each other as human beings. Rapidly advancing connectivity and accessibility have combined to create a new digital wonderland with addictive habits.
Says Larry Kilham, “For centuries, social groups, books, libraries, sings, movies and other media were where people found friends, gathered information and made discoveries. Today, the Internet is the rabbit hole into which many fall and cannot escape. The ever-present, ultra-convenient entry into this Cyberland is the smart-phone.”
There are two basic reasons why this trend is becoming pervasive and controlling:
- The perpetual digital connection to everything provides an easy answer to any question – Kilham’s Knowosphere.
- People tend to select convenience, answers that are good enough, satisfying emotional feedback, minimal action without distraction or needless social interaction.
Larry Kilham’s book suggests solutions. It explores how creativity can be stimulated to learn and solve problems, while maintaining humanity. It is good reading, especially for parents and educators who worry about the time that young people spend with smartphones and video screens.
In further chapters of his book, Larry Kilham goes on to discuss other accelerating changes that are enveloping modern society – artificial intelligence, robotics, the all-consuming Internet. Where will the future lead as modern humans fall down this "rabbit hole"? What are the possibilities? Read the book!
In 2015, there were 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. While growth has been leveling off in developed markets, less mature markets continue to generate huge growth. Globally, by 2020, there will be 6.1 smartphone in circulation, which is about 70 % of the world’s population. (7)
In fact, total mobile subscriptions by 2020 will actually be about 9.2 billion, taking into account Internet-of-things and M2M services, mobile broadband and some basic remaining cellular phones. There will be 26 billion connected devices within 4-5 years.
Here are some key themes of a 2015 Pew Research Center report (8):
- 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home; 15% have a limited number of options, other than their cell phone, for going online.
- Smartphones are widely used for many important life activities – staying informed on breaking news, sharing news and views with family and friends, looking for schedules on public transit, using driving directions to navigate.
- Mobile devices are deeply embedded in the daily lives of most young adults.
- Smartphone usage often produces feelings of productivity and happiness. However, many users also feel distracted or frustrated after mobile use.
There’s a game that can be played in restaurants. Look around and count how many people are on their smartphones while sitting with others at the same table. You’ll notice couples, each one using their own smartphone. The pleasure of face-to-face dinner-table conversations appears to be obsolete. At home, it’s the parent who forbids texting, though sometimes it’s noticeable that even the parents have succumbed.
An ever-growing number of people seem to prefer screen-mediated social interactions to face-to-face, or even voice-to-voice social interactions. Yet, there are strong correlations between depression and the amount of time spent online.
Limbic resonance refers to the energetic exchange that happens between two people who are interacting in a caring and safe relationship. Their interaction stimulates the release of neurochemicals in the limbic region of the brain, necessary for full emotional and physical health. Without enough limbic resonance, most people function and feel less and less well. They become depressed and anxious.
This problem is compounded by a whole childhood spent in front of screens and not enough spent face-to-face. The result is that a young brain becomes wired for digital media use and not suited for much needed face-to-face socializing. Lack of social skills leave a young person inadequately prepared for achieving satisfactory social connections in the real world. (9)
Indeed, the inability to achieving emotional intimacy leads to social anxiety. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of such a person turning to digital media as an escape. In the virtual world, people can develop online friendship, romance and sexual outlets. The skills needed to be successful in the real world are not required.
Smartphones make people less focused. Constantly checking email and Twitter causes them to be less productive, and more disconnected from their real lives. Social media appears to promote self-absorption and narcissism.
For some people, interaction with technology verges on being excessive, and threatens to absorb their attention above all else. This digital addiction may even have a negative impact on their health. Unrestrained use of technological devices has at least some impact upon developmental, social, mental and physical health, with symptoms akin to other behavioral addictions. In recent decades, this has become recognized as a legitimate psychological disorder.
In recent years particular attention has been paid to how the over-use of technology may be affecting the younger generation, teens and even pre-teens. Many children are becoming increasingly reliant upon digital devices for education, social networking and entertainment. With young people spending less time interacting with their peers face to face and more time indoors than previous generations, the direct impact of digital devices on both physical and mental well being is fast becoming a big concern. (10)
The ability to stay balanced and to create healthy relationships with digital devices, will determine the future. A new code of ethics must be developed to raise awareness about harmful digital habits, creating social etiquette, setting positive cultural norms, and sharing the importance of mindfulness.
“Technology has become the center of our social world, compelling us to always keep checking in to see what we’re missing,” says Larry Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us. This leads to the overuse of technology with “iDisorder” where frequent users show signs of everything from obsessive-compulsive disorder to attention deficit disorder. (11)
The solution isn’t powering down completely. As with any addiction-like behavior, the answer is to reset the brain for better control of compulsions to surf, text, or Tweet.
Larry Rosen suggests 3 simple steps:
- Set limits. Having smartphones at ones fingertips acts as brain stimulus that screams, check me. Put your mind at ease with scheduled tech breaks.
- Keep your brain from becoming overloaded by taking a 15-minute walk outside or flipping through a book with photographs of natural environments. This is attention-restoration, exposing yourself to nature helps restore your brain’s ability to focus by giving it a breather.
- Find your pleasure point. Your iPhone can act as a stimulus to your brain, meaning you get a feel-good dopamine rush from checking it, which increases your technology addiction. Retrain your brain by actively doing something else that makes you happy, instead of always reaching into your pocket.
Life in the digital age is sucking more people down the digital rabbit hole. Things need to change.
Please provide your own feedback, comments and suggestions. Share our discussion by responding to these questions directly via the blog. If you prefer, send me an email and I’ll insert your comments.
1. Do you use a smartphone? I confess that I’m addicted. Are you?
2. Do you take your smartphone everywhere with you?
3. Do you check email, Facebook or text constantly?
4. While with others, do you consider texting or email impolite?
5. Do you use or forbid use of smartphones while at family dinner?
6. Do you notice digital addiction trends increasing everywhere?
7. Do you have digital addiction? How are you controlling it?8. Please provide your own additional comments and suggestions.
- Is Technology Making Our Lives Easier? http://goo.gl/zg3XxS
- Time – Millennials Are Selfish and Entitled: http://goo.gl/ZciL7m
- Deresiewicz Book – Miseducation of the American Elite: http://goo.gl/hVfAkW
- David Brooks Book – Road to Character: http://goo.gl/sFFJnX
- NY Times - The Self(ie) Generation: http://goo.gl/QijMZK
- Larry Kilham Book – Down the Digital Rabbit Hole: http://goo.gl/U43Qve
- 6.1B Smartphone Users Globally By 2020: http://goo.gl/vGu1Sp
- US Smartphone Use in 2015: http://goo.gl/lQQeCI
- Online Social Experience and Limbic Resonance: https://goo.gl/l62Ke1
- Digital addiction is the world’s next great health crisis: http://goo.gl/eKCVgj
- Yes, You Do Need A Digital Detox: http://goo.gl/cPcKWt