(Kids, don’t read this*. It talks about some things being done in the mobile industry that are designed to manipulate people into doing things for the sake of advertising and in app purchases that are actually leading to medical level changes in the way our brains work, leading to some pretty bad stuff.)
There is an elephant in the room, and it is hard to get his attention because he has his trunk stuck in his smartphone. There are a whole bunch of really smart people working really hard to use every psychological trick they can to get me to spend as much time as possible on our cell phones.
And they are winning.
Fun that makes me feel bad. I didn’t like it before when it just made me feel bad. And I now like it way less that I’ve come to understand it is affecting my sleep patterns, how well I think, and acting like a drug, trading little moments of feeling good but leaving me sense of feeling depressed and out of control. So I guess I fit into the classic definition of being addicted, knowing that something isn’t good for you, not wanting to do it, and doing it anyway.
Ain’t just me. The much bigger problem is that I talk to kids and parents everyday, so I know I’m not alone in this. In fact it’s so universal that most of us have just thrown up our hands as the new way the world works. But there is something about it that has felt more serious for a while, so I’ve started to look at it more carefully and what I found was a much bigger deal then I thought. In a world where it seems like there is a crisis a day, it seems almost foolish to raise up a hand and try and point to a place where you think you see the damn starting to crack. But I don’t raise my hand like this often, and I’m raising it here…raising the hand, waving the red flag, pulling the fire alarm. I don’t even want to list the level of damage/danger here, because I don’t want to get written off as hysterical or overreacting…so I’m just going to ask that you trust me enough to read all the way through this over-sized tome, and if you end up feeling like I do, come and help me figure out what to do about it.
I’m a dad, and I spend a huge amount of time trying to get my kids to spend less time on their cell phones, and we get into a ton of fights about it. “You don’t understand. Your generation doesn’t get it. I am being social, just with my friends on the phone and not with you.” etc, etc, The very process of trying to get my kids off the phone so we can have better time together generates fights that leave everyone mad in their corners, not being social at all. (Does this sound familiar to any of you?) As parents, its pretty obvious to see the difference in how our kids feel and behave when they are not on the phones so much, but trying to do something about it is way harder then it should be. Besides, everybody is going through it so maybe it’s not really a thing, just us having to adjust to a different way of being in the world. Or maybe there is something very serious going on and we in the middle of it so much that it’s hard to see what’s going on.
- I’ve been having real problems controlling myself with my phone too. I’ve been trying not to says addiction, but if it looks like a duck and clicks like a duck…its probably an addicted duck.
- In 10-20 years people will look back on this time as an actual health crisis, the way that we look back on the cigarette industry.
- They were chemically addictive.
- There was enough money to be made that there was a whole industry dependent on, well people being dependent.
I’m not addicted…what is addicted anyway? There are a lot of definitions for addictive, but the best one that I know if is something that you do, that you know is bad for you, can see the bad results, part of you is aware of it and knows you shouldn’t do it, and you do it anyway. You can feel two voices warring inside of you, one that knows better, and the other that will use any tool at its disposal to have you not think about any negative consequences, and will rebel against anyone who might get in the way of doing it. There’s a whole brain chemistry thing with the parts of the brain that are set up to reward us for doing things that are good for us, getting hijacked by things that provide the same sensations but without the benefits.
- Cognition-changing the way our brain functions
- Significant reduction in ability to maintain attention and focus.
- Memory drops-Brain shifts to not store things that the phone has stored/access to
- Notifications cause shockingly high drops in productivity
- Neurological changes based on different stimulus creates same neurochemical addiction as most drugs.
- Even just having the phone next to you—with the notifications off, reduces capacity to think/focus.
- Notifications lead to significant drop in focus/productivity
- “multi-tasking” consuming other media while working reduces how effectively you think.
- Smart phone use is decreasing face to face time and skills, connected to depression and sense of isolation
- People withhold connection/trust from other people who are engaged with phones, even if they are just on the table
- Issues around smart phone use are causing stress and barriers between parents and children
- Depression and Suicide
- Smartphones becoming common among teens is the only significant/attributable change leading to a 25-30% increase in teen unhappiness, depression and Suicide that has been growing side by side with smart phone use from 2010 till the present.
And the last one is what has pushed me over the edge. I can’t step back and do nothing anymore. But I also know that there have been thousands of people who are extremely smart, who have gone through great efforts to make this problem much harder