How many friends do you really have, 1000 or even 10,000 perhaps. In this ever connected world, how often do you enter a room on your own, close the door to isolate yourself, so you can chat with people you have never even met? Technology has changed the way people interact with each other. There are plenty of positives to what we can do with digital devices. However there are also an incredible number of negatives.
An incredible Ted Talk by Psychologist and Author Adam Alter, given in 2017 on “Why our screen make us less happy”, really complements the Look Up video. The idea behind this article is just to get you to think about the use of digital devices in the home. Adam spoke about how executives at a yearly board meeting would eat a din of their own dogfood, to show the rest of the board if the product was good enough for humans to eat it was certainly good enough for dogs. This became known as “Dogfooding”. This was to highlight how people will use their own products to demonstrate how confident they are in. This obviously inspires others to purchase the product.
When it comes to technology, it is difficult to identify a child who does not have access to a digital device. The general belief among most experts is children need to have access to these devices to help them learn about the technology, otherwise they could be left behind. We recently heard a spokesperson for an Irish Internet Safety Charity on an Irish Talk show reiterate this belief. We disagree. In face we very strongly disagree. The only thing that children need, is to be children.
Lets look at the Dogfooding example, or rather the exceptions to it. It may come as a surprise to you to find out that Steve Jobs, the person who introduced the world to the iPad, would not allow his own children access to it. In fact he told a journalist “We limit the amount of technology we let our kids use at home”. In the home of tech, Silicone Valley, The Waldorf School of the Peninsula, is home to many of the children of individuals who hold high positions in the world of tech. In this school technology is only introduced from the 8th grade in school. This is when children are in the Irish equivalent of 1st Year in Post Primary School.
So much of our lives is being wasted by technology. People who are very close to death will often speak of wishing they had not worked for so much of their lives. Wished they had spent more time with loved ones. Believed they missed out by not travelling and seeing all the world had to offer. Can you see anybody reaching the end of their days wishing they had more Facebook Friends, or had a larger Snapstreak. Life is passing young people by so quickly and as adults we feel we have to put them on this path for their own good. When in reality the negatives far outweigh the positives.
We have to decide what is the reward for the time we spend using technology. Adam Alter has identified, time spent using Relation, Exercise, Reading, Education or Health Apps, had very positive benefits. However, using Social Media, Dating, Gaming, Entertainment even News Apps could have a negative impact on the user. People are spending three times more time using Apps which have the potential to impact their happiness. Is that really a sensible thing to do. Imagine the real work example of this. “Hay Mom, I’m going upstairs for the next three hours, to sit in my locked room, spend time on my own, with the friends I really don’t have and pretend I’m happy and not isolated”.
Alter describes how technology has robbed us of Stopping Cues. Stopping Cues are all around us in the real world. If you go see a movie, The Stopping Cue, occurs when the movie ends. This means you get up and leave. When you read a book there are Stopping Cue’s at the end of every chapter, you can decide to read on or to stop. But the online world is mostly devoid of Stopping Cues. As you navigate through your chosen Social Media site there is no end. A great example is Netflix, we no longer have the Stopping Cue to tell us the TV show is over, we must wait until next week. The Stopping Cue now is having to go to Work, Sleep the Bathroom or deciding to move before you die from deep vein thrombosis.
Study after Study is showing how harmful spending long periods of time using the Apps identified by Alter can be. Yet parents still force digital devices on children. The paradox being parents do not want their children to come to harm in school by being left out or bullied, better give them a device which allows them to fit in. Now they can be exposed to horrific content, pornography, online predators, develop sleeping disorders, self-esteem issues, isolation, depression etc, but at least they fit in with the rest of their class now.
The Look Up video is very thought-provoking. Adams Ted Talk is also excellent and well worth a view. We really like the idea that when you go on holiday, if someone emails you, they receive an email to tell them you are on holiday. This email is going to now be deleted. It tells them the date you will return and advises to contact you then. Anything forwarded until that date will be deleted. Really good idea !!
Once while on a ship returning from France, many years ago, in a time before digital devices. A friend was upset because he had used the last of the 24 available photos in his camera. An older gentleman overheard the conversation said. “You don’t need the camera, photographs can be lost. Take a picture of what you see with your mind and it will last forever.” At the time we all laughed at the suggestion. Years later there is a realisation that this was really good advice. We capture our lives through our experiences not a device. Adam Alter makes a great point in summing up. “Get out of your car take off your shoes, walk on a beach. Feel the sand between your toes. Walk to the sea feel the water around your ankles. Your life will be richer and meaningful because you breathe in that experience”.