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5: Addictions

Published 1/9/2015

In today's episode, we will not be talking about drugs. For long. Instead, we're going to talk about some kind-of amazingly weird trends in how we use technology, and how we might could be more intentional in the time we spend with screens.

We (again) went over the 10 minute mark, but hopefully the discussion is worth the extra half minute to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please consider buying me some tea.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hello everyone and welcome to Developer Teaepisode 5. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today we're going to be talking about addictions. How many times do you pick up your phone and unlock it per day? I want you to make a guess in your mind and just think how many times you think you might pick up your phone and unlock it per day. A study from back in 2013 showed that the respondents of this study picked up their phone and unlocked it at about 110 times per day and at night, in the evenings, that sometimes they would pick up their phone at a rate of once every six seconds. That's a lot, isn't it? It seems like a lot to me. I can't imagine that I pick up my phone that many times but I'm probably somewhere near the average and I'm guessing that you probably are too. I think that this doesn't have much to do with me needing to pick up my phone that many times per day. Quite honestly, I think that our culture has become addicted to technology. I think that addiction has come in two different forms. The first form is the actual addiction that we've cultivated. It's a compulsion and a feeling of needing to check things, of needing to clear out our email inboxes and our text message counts and our retweet counts and whatever else it is that we have to check to feel like we've checked things. I think that part of the addiction has been cultivated because there have been some really good things that have come to us through these channels of media. So, for instance, when my wife and I first started dating, a significant portion of our initial conversations were over text and I'm sure that you can probably relate to this. A lot of what we shared with each other in the beginning was via text message and I think that a lot of you probably have similar examples of when technology was the channel by which you received something that was really good to you, that was really positive to you. Another example might be getting a job offer via email or maybe even just getting news that your paycheck has come in. All of these things are examples of why we have kind of a natural, what is now a natural compulsion to check these different things. It's also a natural compulsion because a lot of us work in a field that requires us to stay connected to our technology and so when I receive an email, for instance, it very possibly could be that it's something that's work related and that I need to check it in order to retain good standing with work or so I think that I need to check it in order to retain good standing. But the second form is driven by that first form and I think the second form is ultimately the thing that has made this so dangerous for us and that is that we formed these unconscious habits of constantly checking things, of constantly being connected to our technology. It's just a habitual part of our lives now that we check our phones 110 times per day. Just think about the last time that you sat for five minutes without a phone or a computer or a TV. How uncomfortable was it to be in isolation away from that media for you? I know for me that I get incredibly uncomfortable when I'm without my phone, my wife and I recently, I experienced in a moment where my phone, I guess not a moment, but an hour or something like that, where my phone was dead and it gave me a little bit of anxiety because we are so used to being able to contact each other at the drop of a hat and when we can't, when we're restricted, when we are away from our technology, it feels as though something has been removed from our lives that we need. So this language sounds very much like addiction language and in fact, there was a study done by some students at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. They called it 24 hours unplugged and I'm looking at the website right now. If you want to look at it, it's at withoutmedia.wordpress.com. So the study basically, they asked some students to go without media for 24 hours. Again, it was back in 2010. And so the very first highlight of the study was that students used literal terms of addiction to characterize their dependence on media. So here's a quote from the website. It says, this is a student talking, although I started the day feeling good, I noticed my mood started to change around noon. I started to feel isolated and lonely. I received several phone calls that I could not answer. And by 2 p.m., I began to feel the urgent need to check my email and even thought of a million ideas of why I had to. I felt like a person on a deserted island. I noticed physically that I began to fidget as if I was addicted to my iPod and other media devices and maybe I am. So again, this quote is just so telling of an addiction. I'm an addiction to media in this case, but in general, just an addiction to our screens are being able to have our screens nearby in our pockets. And I don't see our world going in the opposite direction anytime soon because we're going to continue getting more screens. We're going to continue seeing more and more integrations of media into our everyday lives. And so how do we deal with this? How do we approach making sure that we are not forming addictions, but instead we are healthily interacting with technology and with media? Because don't get me wrong. I think that a lot of people have an improper understanding of technology. I do not believe that technology has an inherent evil. I don't think that it causes us necessarily to be disconnected from humanity or to be disconnected from personal relationships. In fact, I think technology in a lot of ways has empowered those personal relationships. Again, as I said previously, a lot of my wife and I's initial conversations when we first started dating, we're done via text. And we couldn't have had those conversations, have we not had, have we not both had cell phones that could text each other. So technology has the ability to be a very good positive thing for humanity. But just like anything good, it can be abused. It can turn into something that we misuse in our lives, that we end up doing too much of, or we do it in the wrong ways and ways that are unhealthy for us. So how do we deal with this? I think quite simply we just make technology a conscious habit rather than an unconscious habit. We start thinking about how many times we're opening our phones per day. We start thinking about what are ways that we can reduce our usage and dependency and sense of urgency related to our devices and related to our media streams. One way of doing this, tomorrow or the next day, whenever you would normally listen to this podcast, instead don't listen to it. And instead just sit and do nothing for five to ten minutes. Just five to ten minutes. And allow yourself to take in the world around you. Maybe you can listen to music and just focus on how that music sounds. Or maybe you can just have some face to face time with a spouse or a coworker or go take a walk outside. Whatever it is, take some time away from your screens away from media or away from technology. This allows you to gain a perspective and to actually make intentional choices to not be enslaved, I guess enslaved is kind of an extreme term, but to not feel the need to check things. And instead to use them in ways that are powerful and positive, rather than feeling some sense of responsibility and some false sense of insecurity when you're not fulfilling those empty responsibilities that technology has brought into your life. I hope you've enjoyed this conversation about technology and addiction. In the future, I'll be talking a little bit more about what abstinence from technology looks like for me. For instance, I don't really use Facebook all that much. I'll probably talk about why I chose that route in the future. If you have any thoughts about addiction and technology or if you just have suggestions or comments, you can get at me on Twitter. My Twitter handle is at Developer Teaor you can email me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. Until next time, enjoy your tea.