How do you slow down in a world that is speeding up?
The question of the ages. A question that, through the thorough research of Author Johann Hari in his book Stolen Focus has only now been answered.
Do you remember when you bought your first phone? Or when you first downloaded Twitter or Instagram?
Since the first mobile phone, life has never really been quiet. It's hard to think back to a time before phones. Personally, I don’t really know what life was like before technology and in many ways I wish I did!
Hari says that on average ‘We touch our phones 2,617 thousand times a day’.
It is scientifically proven that people can only focus on one thing at a time. If you try to do more than one thing at a time, everything is done to a much lower standard and you absorb less information. The average time it takes to refocus on a task after being distracted is around 23minutes!
In an interview with ABC radio, Hari says this is called the ‘switch cost effect’. Through the constant, daily interruption we face through social media our society faces something called cognitive degradation which is basically frequent memory loss. Because we are always so busy we are constantly trying to do what we think is “multitasking” when really it is “juggling” and it isn’t getting us anywhere.
One very important thing that we don’t give ourselves enough time to do, is mind wander.
When you sleep or when you feel as though you are in a bit of a trance, your mind is actually wandering through all of its past thoughts, sorting through them and when you get distracted by the constant noises of social media, you allow your mind that little bit less time to sort through its thoughts. Over time this is what causes cognitive degradation. So much time is spent taking the right photos, posting the right photos and receiving likes and views. We never really take a moment to just breathe. Never really allowing our bodies and our minds to regather.
Our phones and all of our technology today was specifically designed so that it would interrupt us. Hari mentions a man named Tristan who worked at Google whilst it was developing Gmail. The team he was on was trying to figure out how they could manipulate people into picking up their phones more frequently and checking Gmail more often. This is when they come up with notifications, when your phone gives a buzz you are much more likely to pick up your phone and see what the notification is.
This is something that all social media platforms use to make money:
Step 1: Create a platform.
Step 2: Create an algorithm that will generate video’s, ads etc that will keep people interested.
Step 3: The more they scroll, the more money we make.
On Hari’s journey he found out how apps show you exactly what you want to see. It was actually very interesting and quite alarming to read.
All apps, including Google, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter store your every search. They create a profile on your patterns, things that you are most interested in or easily distracted by and they sell this information to advertising companies. Companies that then set up advertisements to entice you.
Everyone has experienced that weird, not so coincidental moment when your social media platform pops up with an advertisement of something you were just talking about or searching and you think ‘wow my phone must be listening to me’. Well you're not lying because your phone, your apps are listening to you and following every button you press. If it’s free you are the product. Social Media has become a distraction, an interruption into our every thought. Now that I am aware of what social media aims to do I have found that I stop myself from picking it up more often. I now understand how important it is that every person, no matter what age, understands how social media functions so that we can become more aware of the needs of our own minds for the future.
Technology has so many positive aspects and one of those is that our world is continually advancing. In spite of this we need to stop and I mean really stop, especially as the next generation, stop and ask ourselves, how do you slow down in a world that is speeding up?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, DRUE:
I’m 16, and I joined the Youth Committee as I believe it will be such a significant learning experience that will go towards the security of the online world.
I believe social media is such a large part of today’s world, positively and negatively impacting individuals and society.
Hopefully, through the Youth Committee, I can help create a safer online space for everyone.