The turn of the century has gifted us many a good thing….Like total permission to binge watch trashy tv series (Netflix), the ability to stalk another person without warranting a restraining order (Facebook), and impulsively buying unnecessary possessions. In our pjs. On the couch. (Online shopping).
However, with these societal advancements and internet platforms now comes the very real term researchers are coining ‘technology addiction,’ and like many other phenomena in our culture, we have even come up with a phobia name for it:
Nomophobia – the panicked state of dread one experiences when they find themselves disconnected from their cellphone.
A close cousin to FOMO, Nomophobia thrives on the irrational fear of being out of the loop with seemingly important social notifications and information. Alongside the desire to remain in contact with a numerous number of people at any given time, even if you are never actually communicating with them.
American research surveys carried out over the past few years have uncovered that mobile phone usage has made anxiety all the more prevalent, in both men and women. With 70% of women experiencing ‘phone separation anxiety’, and 61% of men. More than 50% admitted to texting while driving, despite the fact it is six times more dangerous than driving drunk, and one study even revealed that 53% of students aged 16-22 would rather lose their sense of smell than go without technology.
We all know the highs our trusty electronic accoutrement can provide, and we all crave them endlessly. But perhaps the real reason (one that we often fail to discuss), is that we just love the reassurance of our value and place when it comes to social status, likability, and even enviability. We are human after all…
It is even inbuilt (or rather, developed) in our bodies chemical responses to flourish and feel more motivated when we hear the melodious ‘ding ding’ and see the little red number accompany the ‘messages’ icon on our phone screen. The release of dopamine skyrockets when we experience this, as it is the same as ‘the anticipation of reward’ that dopamine responds to in other circumstances such as eating chocolate or falling in love. So much so, when it is lacking, some of us find that our minds begin compensate by creating what is known as ‘PCVS’ or ‘Phantom Cellphone Vibration Syndrome,’ which assures us that we just got a message, even when we didn’t.
The Technology Hangover:
Have you ever used your phone lying in bed at night only to wake up after a good 10 hours and feel like your eyes have been impaled and your head heavy and blurred? This is what many are now recognising as a technology hangover, and the harsh blue light that makes our devices useable 24/7 is possibly to blame. Thankfully Apple now manufacture iPhones with this in mind, allowing us to switch to ‘night mode’ in the evenings, lessening the sting of the usual cool-toned light source to our precious peepers. Another way we can avoid this effect, and also get a much more restorative rest is perhaps committing to the screen-free-bedroom approach. Ben and Brooke McAlary of The Slow Home Podcast based in Australia underwent a month long ‘experiment’ alongside many of their listeners to put this technique to the test. The pair now voraciously endorse it’s benefits, suggesting that even their home life and relationship improved, being that evenings were now distraction free for at least 1-2 hours upon waking and before tucking in.
What this all comes down to is the art of approaching our devices with a sort of intentionality; learning to understand that ‘we own them…they shouldn’t own us.’
Perhaps by embracing pockets of technological sparseness throughout our day, looking up and around us for things that we may have been taking for granted or may even be missing completely. Allowing ourselves to be stimulated by the real world and it’s mysteries rather than the world reliant upon wifi signals and phone plans. Ironically, a new app called ‘Moment’ has been released lately, and could be of some help in exposing just how much time you are giving to your device. As confronting as it may be to start with, this is a great tool to keep on track with what apps you specifically reach for out of pure habit, how many hours in the day you are engaging with technology, and even how many ‘pick-ups’ or check ups you make.
Another simple intention is to rediscover the joy of being present with the person you are there with. We’ve all heard three’s a crowd – a rule that should still apply in one on one interaction. Even if you think you’re excused because that third person is really just a smartphone, they are still there, and your attention is still being divided. (Attention is shown to decrease by 12% when a device is present during an interaction, even if it’s turned off.)
Similarly, try giving your coffee date the gift of descriptive language and imagination. So often we take the shortcut to explaining a person, event, place, or thing by whipping out Google or Instagram to show a 2D representation of something that could be explained with much more consideration. How many times have you resorted to this method when talking about a new acquaintance, rather than reciting all the wonderful and brilliant qualities and details you enjoyed about them, with your words.
If we can all come to agree on one thing after reading these statistics and reflecting on our own technology usage and reliance, I think it would be that we all want and need more love – the real kind. This means not just giving our ‘hearts’ away with our thumbs, and instead, using our fingers to give each other a hearty thumbs up every once in awhile.
(….And not just the emoji kind.)