How many times will you stop reading this blog post to check e-mail, text messages or social media?
The heaviest smartphone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day, according to the research platform dscout. The rest of us still touch the addictive things 2,617 times a day on average. That level of connection is wreaking havoc on our ability to focus on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post a status update.
Adam Alter, author of “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” warns that many of us — youngsters, teenagers, adults — are addicted to modern digital products. Not figuratively, but literally addicted.
In a New York Times interview, he explains:
In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.
Behavioral addictions are really widespread now. A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smartphones.
We increasingly struggle to look away from our screens.
Is your smartphone addiction a problem?
Mine was. The frightening thing about the addiction was that I didn’t realize the impact it was having on me until I went into “detox.” During the first few days of my initial digital detox, I desperately wanted to check my phone. I felt low-grade anxiety and was completely out of my comfort zone. Ironically, eight days later when I got my phone back, I left it off for a few hours to fully absorb my transformation. In that moment I was much more aware of the impact technology was having on my ability to be fully present.
Yes, the internet has fundamentally transformed the way we connect and communicate. It’s launched a whole new economy where anyone with an idea and an internet connection can start a company and connect with a global marketplace full of opportunity.
For that very reason, we’re living in the golden age of entrepreneurship! However, letting technology intrude into nearly every waking moment isn’t healthy and the time to create a little more discipline around it is now.
On a recent road trip with Seth Mattison, we discussed how to be more intentional in our relationship with technology and how we know when it’s time to unplug. Case in point, notice the irony of our full immersion into tech while talking about the benefits of a digital detox in this video!
The key is to get off of autopilot and become a bit more aware and intentional in managing our technology so it isn’t managing us. Give the digital detox a try this weekend and DM me on Monday to let me know how it went!
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.