Switch it off! - how unplugging yourself more often can change your life.
In a world where technological advances are supposed to be making our lives better, doesn’t it seem like people are more disconnected than ever?
Can you really say you don’t have time to read or do enough exercise when the average adult spends several hours a day looking at their mobile phone screen?
And do you REALLY care one single bit what Vicky at work had for breakfast today?…
Using casino technology to get drug addict responses
It is common knowledge now that the big players in the social media industry employ ’Attention Engineers’ and ‘Gaming Strategists’. These are people who design and implement software for Las Vegas casinos and online gambling websites. The social media giants employ these people to implement the same techniques and technology into their social media platforms to keep you scrolling and clicking away for hours on end, just like a gambling addict would at a slot machine. They deliberately use techniques and strategies to make their platforms as addictive as possible to keep you glued to your phone or your tablet for as long as possible.
These same strategies take advantage of something called a ‘dopaminergic reward system’ - where the activity of scrolling endlessly through a social media platform and engaging with it’s users is met with a random reward of a new ‘follower’ or a ‘like’ from someone. When this occurs, the brain is flooded with a powerful neurotransmitter called Dopamine, which gives a pleasurable experience similar to that of many prescription and recreational psychoactive drugs. This dopamine reward drives people to repeat the same behaviour over and over again to get the same response. Scarily, this reward system is particularly active in adolescents and this is mirrored in their social media habits. This random reward system is incredibly addictive and utilises the same psychological reward system that keeps a player at a slot machine all night long in a casino. And the very same ideas that drive addictive gambling behaviour, such as the thought of ‘missing out’ on that next big win, are also present in frequent social media users.
Why would that benefit anyone to keep me glued to my screen, clicking and scrolling away like a zombie?
They make billions of dollars from your data, which you voluntarily give away… for FREE!
Naming no names in particular, one social media giant earned $39.9 Billion dollars in advertising revenue in 2017 alone. $39.9 BILLION!
With no fee to use their website or mobile phone apps, this digital juggernaut makes an absolute fortune every single day by allowing businesses to reach out to every one of their 2 billion plus members, with targeted advertising. By using the personal information that YOU provided when you signed up to their website, and the content that YOU upload every day, these adverts are targeted at a specific demographic of potential customers with incredible accuracy. And they make billions and billions of dollars out of that data that you provided… free of charge.
With recent GDPR changes, things are not quite so ‘wild-west’ as they used to be. But up until very recently, if a business wanted to make sure that an advert for their services reached 50-60yr old females, who are self-employed business owners, own their own home and have an interest in Skiing, it was pretty easy to pay for an advert to be plonked right in front of those specific people whilst they’re scrolling away on their phones or tablets. It really is that accurate! And businesses will pay big money to make sure their adverts reach the right customers. Even teenagers are bombarded relentlessly with targeted advertising. So you can start to see how your data and your screen time is worth serious money.
”But that’s alright, let them make their money. There is no real cost to me, it’s free!”…
Well, that depends on how you define ‘cost’.
The cost of social media & the shocking truth about how we spend our time each day
Give a mobile phone or a tablet to a 3 year old and watch what happens. We’ve all seen children who are barely even old enough to feed themselves, who can operate basic functions on a mobile phone. Flicking through photos or playing a simple game that has them so engrossed that it’s almost impossible to distract them from it. Now is that just bad parenting? Or is it because these devices and platforms are designed in such a way that renders people with even the strongest willpower completely at the mercy of this technology? You decide.
‘Fragmented attention’ is a term used to describe a psychological state in which your concentration is constantly broken up and interrupted by external distractions. This is classic in the world we live in now, with almost everyone around us constantly checking their notifications and messages, from the moment they wake up, to the moment they finally fall asleep (often with mobile phone still in hand). This state has been shown to have a significant negative impact on your attention span and cause permanent damage to ones ability to concentrate.
We mentioned before that social media and it’s ‘random reward’ systems can give it’s users a real whack of Dopamine. But, worryingly, digital interactions with people on social media don’t provide our brains with the same reward of Serotonin. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter which aids in regulating mood, sleep, memory, sexual function, social behaviour and digestion. Serotonin has been shown to be released in response to social interaction, physical touch and human contact such as hugging. But not with digital interactions such as social media exchanges. Crucially, in the context of this article, is that low serotonin levels have direct links with depression. In fact, social media use has been shown to have direct impact on:
- Mental Health issues
- Social Isolation
- Impaired cognitive development
- Self esteem
- Eating disorders and more.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. With so many red flags everywhere we look when it comes to social media use, what can we do to ensure that we are using it safely and suitably, rather than being a slave to the scrolling?
Switch it off!
Seriously. Let’s talk numbers and see how you feel about your mobile phone afterwards, ok?
The average amount of recreational screen time for someone in 2018 was more than 3.25 hours per day - NOT including work / school exposure to screens.
Around 25% of children under the age of 6 now have their own mobile phone to use, and many start using tablets and phones a lot younger. But for the sake of argument, let’s take a conservative starting age of 10 years old for these sums. At 3.25 hours per day, that’s 49.42 days per year spent staring at a screen or a mobile phone!
If you live to a ripe old age of 77, that works out to 3,311 days or the equivalent of 9 years of your life looking at a screen. For some people that figure would be a lot more!
Think about that for a minute…
9 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE STARING AT A SCREEN…
On that note, I’m going to switch my phone off and go for a walk. Enjoy those pictures of someone else’s dinner…