“We see time and time again that the constant distraction is making people feel very unhappy,” said Ashley Whillans, a behavior scientist, who has been studying the relationship between happiness, time and money.
All of which means missing out can be a good thing. But how best to do it?
Know that you likely
have a problem.
If you’re wondering whether you may also be engaging in unhealthy tech habits, here’s a helpful pop quiz:
Do you own a smartphone?
That’s it. Because if you answered yes, you’re essentially carrying around what the Center for Humane Technology, an organization working to spur reform in the tech and media industries, calls a “slot machine” in your pocket. Play it enough times, and you’re bound to get hooked. This isn’t an accident. This is big business.
“Tech companies have spent the last 10, 20 years building internet and mobile products that are addictive on purpose,” said Dan Frommer, the editor in chief of Recode. “There is a threshold where utility becomes addiction, and I think it’s safe to say a lot of the most popular products today have taken it too far.”
Monitor your digital diet
as you would your food diet.
Today, many of us are mindful about what we put into our bodies because we know how certain foods make us feel: Gluten may make one sluggish, say, while sugar can worsen anxiety. But what about when it comes to our minds? Imagine what that extra hour of mindless scrolling is doing to it.
Try making a mental note (or keeping a diary) on your digital habits. Apps like Moment, which help you track your app usage, can help, as will the forthcoming dashboards from Google and Apple. Then experiment with eliminating or limiting the amount you engage in each one. See what you learn.
Instead of focusing so much on the contents of our food, we may do better to cultivate awareness around which mental and digital activities actually nourish us — and which send us into a tailspin of anxiety and despair. Gorging on clickbait content and empty-calorie YouTube sessions probably isn’t doing us any favors. But, as with our tummies, starvation isn’t the answer.