How Technology Affects Our Attention

It’s become obvious that attention levels are dropping due to technology. But how is this really affecting our mental health?

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Alright, so we can admit it: We are pretty obssessed with our devices, aren’t we?

Well, okay maybe YOU aren’t but the majority of us are. In fact, 96% of Americans own some sort of mobile smartphone according to Pew Research Center. And with that large of a percentage, it’s only predictable that we would build up a codependent relationship with our devices.

But who can blames us really? When there’s always an app for that and with more and more of us becoming evermore connected with one another it really caught up to us, hasn’t it?

Here’s a wild thought, Apple’s flagship proudct, the iPhone, graced the world with it’s rauccus amouncemnet by Apple’s then CEO Steve Jobs, just thirteen years ago…

And within that thirteen years we went from being astounded that all of that tech could be squeezed into a tiny, shiny brick to being pissed off it’s missing feature that other leading smartphones have.

Oh sure, we still use these devices, perhaps even enjoy our seemingly shorter and shorter period of time with these phones and tablets. But we are always keeping an eye out for the inevitable shinier, cooler, and newer iteration to come out.

It feels like we are just biding our time until we can either ditch, sell, trade in or upgrade to a better system or product. And with this use’n’ditch approach to consumption of technology and the fact that there’s always something going to be something new or better around the corner, perhaps we have become beholden by our own tech and it’s affecting not only our wallets but our hearts and minds as well.

Your Devices & Your Mental Health: How They’re Linked

The concept of being “ever-connected,” “consistently wired” has become the norm as we all have become more and more interconnected by not only our device but also through web platforms that have built off the innovation from said devices.

Social media networks have replaced the complicated, tangled web of friends and families into a beautifully simplistic platforms that organizes all of the human beings you want to be in the know of into a wonderful continuously scrolling timeline.

Texting, instant messaging, and apps – like Snapchat and WeChat – have replaced the need for face to face conversations and even in some cases conversations that usually would’ve taken place over the phone.

We have become more connected and yet more disconnected than ever before and with that comes the inevitable consequences.

New fangled fancy disorders and terms have floated into the public consciousness of late regarding devices and have been widely reported routinely. Cases of “tech fatigue” and “cell phone addiction” have sprouted though the years of constant connection and from fears of “missing out.”

And a widespread rise in depression and anxiety related cases have been revealed in the years following our collective acceptance of constant connection and device-heavy lifestyles. Now within our current state of having mandatory schooling and work online is a trend that we need to not only monitor but be active in identifying.

Recent research from the University of Arizona showed that adolescents who were dependent on or addicted to their smartphone were more likely to show signs of depression and loneliness. ¹

In a 2018 study about adolescences, phone use, and device addiction, they found that “teens and young adults (14- to 22-years-old) had mixed feelings about social media use. Respondents who had symptoms of moderate to severe depression said they were more likely to feel left out when they use social media, or think that others are doing better than they are.” ²

So, if we are finding a link to overuse of technology and a rise in depression and anxiety, how can we approach this complication and finally address it? Well, there’s a professor that has a pretty interesting take on this issue.

Tech Jet Lag: How A Professor Perfectly Sums Up Tech Fatigue

When we talk about tech fatigue, we don’t always just mean becoming stressed or tired from over use of technology in a single sitting, we are also talking about becoming fatigued about the subject of technology.

Associate Professor of History Chris Lee of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania wrote a book about this technological fatigue phenomenon and he made a perfect analogy for us to understand his point of view: He takes the complex feelings of apathy, exhaustion, and annoyance of technology and all it has to offer and simplifies it to the feeling of jet lag.

Jet lag, for those who are unaware, is the sensation of lost time primarily due to long distance air travel. However, in relation to technology, Lee utilizes jet lag in order to sum up the feeling of being exhausted by an ever-connected and, in most cases, accelerated world.

How To Combat The Tech Jet Lag

In an interview with the school’s newspaper, the professor expounds upon this concept of technological jet lag as well as how to combat it in your personal life.

The biggest thing that we all can do in order to slow down our lives and combat this new found “tech jet lag” is to simply slow things down for yourself. Lee finished his interview with this passing word of advice: “We need to pay attention and slow down our lives.” ³

It’s not enough to just distance yourself from your devices from time to time. In order to really combat this fatigue from technology, we have to make an effort to try and live our lives separated but not completely torn away from our devices.

Limiting Device Use Through Restriction

Of course, in this day and age, it’s almost impossible to live a tech-free lifestyle but limiting your time and transitioning that time to be spent in the “real world” is honestly the most natural and rational way to fight this fatigue. The tech stress and fatigue issue has become such a problem that device-restrictive companies like Yondr have sprouted up in recent years.

Yondr, and companies like it, offer entertainment venues and educational establishments the ability to restrict an attendees phone usage by locking their personal devices in a sealed bag or box that they take with them when they enter the venue or establishment and are able to dispose of to receive their phone at the ned of the event or school day.

Yondr stresses that its products are not meant to infringe on the attendees right to their device but rather to provide a distraction-free environment and limit the risk of piracy through illegal recordings of the event. Comedians Dave Chappelle and Tracey Morgan as well as musicians like Alicia Keys and Guns’N’Roses have utilized services like Yondr to lock fans’ phones during their events.

And although it’s a unique approach to try and get complete focus from an audience, representatives from Yondr have stood by their product and service by stressing the fact that device-free experiences are far more enjoyable without the distraction and fear of missing out due to having access to a device during the show.

Kelly Taylor, Yondr’s director of marketing, has stated that it also benefits the artist performing greatly, pointing out that having the phone locked away allows for the artist to, “feel better to perform to a crowd that’s present, engaged, and actually with you in the room instead of on that’s constantly texting or recording you.” ²

While there are those that feel uncomfortable and have reservations against locking their phones away for various different reasons ranging from needing to be in contact with family members and/or babysitters, most have actually found locking their phones and having a distraction free entertainment experience was far more enjoyable than one with devices.

And as more and more institutions and venues adopt this practice, we might have a future where locking your cell phone and devices will be the norm.

Final Word

So, in closing, we can admit technology is incredible and what they have to offer us as consumers and users is truly seemingly limitless. However, we need to use and consume these devices with care.

We have allowed devices to enter our homes, our pockets and into our lives with very little heistation, so now it’s our responisbility to use these devices with caution and care for own wellbeing.

The tech jet lag is becoming a widely encountered problem in our society and we have to create our own countermeasures in order to keep ourselves in check and keep ourselves from being consumed by our products from our own creation.

Measures like technological distancing (the idea that one strays from their devices for extended periods of time in order to disconnect and recharge), setting limitations for devices in social interactions and events and keeping ourselves in-check with our mental wellbeing and monitoring how much time you are spending on your devices.

We have entered a brave new world of the digital age and it’s imparative that we keep a balance between our real day-to-day lives and our digital existence. It’s not just important for our social and interpersonal relationships but als ofor our own wellbeing and mental health.

With countermeasures and a conscious insight into our own mental wellbeing, we can embrace this new digital age and reap all the exciting, innovative rewards with a level-head.

Your Questions

Still have questions about technology and how it affects our attention?

We’d love to hear from you! We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further information to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.

References

¹ University of Arizona: “Which Comes First: Smartphone Dependency or Depression?”

² Child Mind Institute: “When Should You Come Between a Teenager and Her Phone?”

³ Lafayette University Press: “How Tech is Making Us Tired”

⁴ Fox News: Dave Chappelle, Other Artists Make Fans Lock Phones In Pouches During Show

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