COVID-19 made our tech addiction worse: It’s time to do something about it 

COVID-19 made our tech addiction worse: It’s time to do something about it 

Stuart Wall

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Stu Wall is a know-how govt and entrepreneur who based Signpost, a cloud-based buyer communication platform that helps small companies scale.

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated America’s dependancy to know-how, and it’s making us unhappy, anxious and unproductive.

Companies like Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat earn extra promoting income the extra ceaselessly we use their merchandise. These corporations use push notifications and customized feeds to seize our consideration, manipulate our feelings and affect our actions.

Business is nice. Americans now spend greater than 5 hours every day on their units.

So what? As mentioned in Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma,” tech corporations will proceed to observe their revenue motive to seize our consideration. Governments are not any extra seemingly to assist handle unhealthy tech consumption than consumption of sugar or unlawful medication. We have to take management.

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated America’s dependancy to know-how, and it’s making us unhappy, anxious and unproductive.

My perspective is as a former tech CEO and know-how addict. The advertising and marketing platform I based raised over $100 million, grew to 350 workers and bought to a personal fairness agency final yr. Along the way in which I picked up some horrible tech habits; I checked electronic mail consistently and allowed push notifications to interrupt each in-person interplay.

My tech use hit all-time low final yr on a go to with household. I resolved to place down my cellphone and backyard with my mother, who has superior Parkinson’s and strikes slowly and with intention.

I felt like an addict in withdrawal. My cellphone was like a magnet pulling me to test for missed work emails or breaking information. Tech overuse had rewired my mind, lowered the standard of on a regular basis consciousness and prevented me from being current.

I stepped down as CEO of my firm earlier this yr. I’ve spent my day without work studying about mindfulness, neuroplasticity and know-how dependancy. Most importantly, I developed a method for managing my tech use that’s made me happier and extra productive.

Here’s what I realized.

Tech corporations exploit our brains to seize our consideration

In their quest for our consideration, some tech corporations goal the oldest components of our mind, what UCLA psychiatrist Daniel Siegel calls the downstairs mind. The downstairs mind consists of your brainstem and limbic areas, which management innate reactions and impulses (battle or flight) and robust emotion (like anger and concern). In distinction, your upstairs mind, together with your cerebral cortex, is the place intricate psychological processes happen, like considering, imagining and planning.

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The downstairs mind is reactive. It’s designed to guard us in emergencies; it will possibly make fast judgements, hijack our consciousness and drive motion by robust emotion. The downstairs mind is what’s focused by attention-seeking merchandise. Headlines that make us really feel outraged and TikTok notifications that make us really feel reactive enchantment to our downstairs mind.

Spending time in a reactive state rewires our brains

Our brains change with coaching. Research has proven that our brains are reprogrammed with the firing patterns of neurons. Our nervous system will be rewired and reworked by repetitive, targeted consideration or exercise in a course of referred to as neuroplasticity.

Repetitive machine utilization is an ideal instance of neuroplasticity at work. The extra time we spend responding to push notifications, watching movies in infinite scroll or in search of social validation from social media, the extra our brains will rewire to need the identical.

Our dependancy will worsen as corporations get higher at capturing consideration

While many tech corporations acknowledge issues from overusing their merchandise, none will make radical modifications wanted to lower their share of the eye revenue pool. If they did, another person would eat their lunch.

These corporations are promoting us sugary drinks. The style is enhancing exponentially and the sweetest drinks haven’t been invented but. The extra we drink, the more durable it will get to cease. We have to take management of our consumption and habits — we have to observe a know-how food regimen — or we are going to endure the psychological equal of morbid weight problems.

We can can rewire our brains to be extra productive and happier by altering our habits

If we consider know-how consumption as an analog to meals consumption, tech merchandise fall into 4 meals teams based mostly on the standard of knowledge and technique of supply. Content high quality is necessary: Some content material is effective (e.g., MIT’s on-line courseware) or essential (work electronic mail), whereas most just isn’t helpful (TikTok) .

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The supply mannequin can be necessary. Healthy platforms give company to the consumer and permit us to tug content material that’s helpful after we want it. Conversely, dangerous platforms typically depend on push, sending us data that’s typically not helpful at a time after we’re doing one thing else. Based on my expertise, listed here are three steps we will take to implement a tech food regimen:

1. Eliminate merchandise that reinforce your downstairs mind (low-quality content material pushed to you)

Willpower is finite. If we don’t need sugary drinks, don’t maintain them in the home. We maintain probably the most distracting functions ever developed inside arms attain always. These functions prey on our downstairs mind, which hijacks our higher intentions and delivers unfavorable worth for most individuals. I consider our greatest protection is abstinence; we shouldn’t use these apps.

Tip: I exploit Apple’s Content Restrictions on the iPhone and MacBook. I added the apparent offenders: TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and a few particular to me, which incorporates Zillow, StreetEasy and NYPost. My partner has the override code. I can break it if wanted, however the course of is tough sufficient that it doesn’t enter on a regular basis consciousness.

2. Consume extra merchandise that reinforce your upstairs mind (high-quality content material that’s obtainable after we want it)

Good content material expands our data and expertise and should contribute to rewiring our upstairs mind in a means that provides to our empathy, creativeness and mindfulness.

Consuming good content material is rewarding however effortful. It requires uninterrupted focus. Unlike sugary drinks, which we’re wired to eat subconsciously, leafy greens should be consumed deliberately.

Tip: Make a listing of your favourite leafy greens. For me, this consists of Kindle, Feedly, tech periodicals and my favourite curation platforms: HackerNews and Product Hunt. Calm, one among a number of booming mindfulness apps, additionally makes the listing. These are the one apps on my house display, which inspires me to make use of them extra typically. Like a meals food regimen, I set attainable targets for “good” consumption and monitor my progress.

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I like to recommend fasting on know-how periodically; I go away my cellphone at house for walks with my son and dinner with pals. I additionally advocate nontech actions that promote upstairs mind rewiring like an out of doors hike or studying to play an instrument.

3. Redesign consumption patterns for productiveness instruments

Email is required for most individuals. It has the potential to make us productive. But the common message high quality is low, and the always-on, excessive frequency, push-by-default design prevents us from doing our greatest work.

Tip: I’ve turned off notifications on all the things that’s not meant for pressing or well timed messages (e.g., texts, Lyft, Tovala oven). Boomerang’s Chrome Extension will be set as much as ship your entire emails each hour on the hour. Batch processing electronic mail each hour dramatically reduces the quantity of interruption with out impacting my responsiveness.

We stay in relative abundance, with meals, items and safety that will make even our current ancestors envious. But abundance doesn’t make us blissful; we’re the least blissful on document. We appear to be dwelling in a collective state of downstairs mind, a steady grownup mood tantrum targeted on robust emotions, emotion and impulsiveness.

But there’s hope.

As people, I discovered that even a couple of months of know-how weight-reduction plan helped me develop into much less impulsive and extra conscious. As workers, we will cease working for firms that revenue from the eye financial system. As managers, we will insist that our groups flip off their units at evening, flip off their Slack notifications and take actual holidays. As mother and father, we will help our kids develop wholesome consumption patterns.

Collective motion — and rewiring of our brains — might change the course of our politics and our potential to collaborate and clear up a very powerful challenges of the 21st century.

American innovation dominates the eye financial system. It’s time for American innovation to dominate the way in which we use know-how.

Ignore the social media echo chambers


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