Let’s ask some questions.

We are guinea pigs, at the first 1% of these powerful new technologies that have rapidly, exponentially, grabbed hold of our lives in the last 5 or 6 decades. In the last 10 years, with the last 5 being the real growth, connective communication technologies have completely obliterated old systems, such that we have few ground rules to go along with our lack of understanding of how these things effect / affect our world, communities, families, and our health.  To consider this revolution with some historic perspective, consider how the printing press altered culture & society, then imagine what the long term impact of social tech, considering it is a two way platform, and humbles the printing press as a vestige of our enlightenment.

More after clicky here –

As technological guinea pigs, we may ask what the impact is.  Where is this going?  Let’s cast aside our preferences or predilections…. some love to be connected, some love to hate being connected, some can’t admit they are addicted.  But instead of having a personal or emotional conversation about how “connected” you feel to a “smartobject”, let’s consider the science behind how those objects are impacting you. This stuff is vital to think about – it’s just the beginning of awareness about these oft overlooked impacts of modern living.  To all those who tire of the madness and pace of this modern world… it will subside.

This is relevant to you – to us – and to everyone else….. Please share this with your friends, family, people you love, and… especially… the people who need it.  The problem is that the people who need it most will take the least amount of time to read and understand it.  So, the duality of our human condition marches on.

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THE DATA & STUDIES

Email depresses me.  There *is* a lonely, hollow joy as I whittle it down – for me, there is a banal exhalation in deleting spam emails while using the W.C. first thing in the AM – metaphoric and literal expelling of crap.  To feel joy over something so mundane and non-compelling feels empty. My giddiness is quickly vaporized with the realization that I get satisfaction from deleting emails… not due to deleting them, as much as not actually having to reply to them.  Replying to emails makes me depressed…. and of course, it’s part of life, and I am guilty as hell for creating email. Please do not ask my friends. I would call it hypocrisy if it wasn’t simply technological immaturity.

Well…

1) Email “Vacations” reduce stress, increase productivity, and increase concentration.  People who don’t look at email = healthier and doing better. Interesting.

Our dopamine receptors evolved over millions of years to look out for any foreign movements or things out of place… constantly searching the horizon for new information that might imperil our clan.  Well… that’s to protect ourselves from certain death during the caveman days… it certainly helped us survive.  But that evolutionary trait wreaks havoc on us when we can’t remain task oriented for long enough to ignore the “ding” or new email count number.  Here is the actual UC Davis announcement of the study.

“Heart rate monitors were attached to computer users in a suburban office setting, while software sensors detected how often they switched windows. People who read email changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates. Those removed from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates.”

“We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress,” said UCI informatics professor Gloria Mark.

2) Being over-attached to tech is harmful — and we pay a price.  It is changing the way we behave, interact, and exist within a moment.

“Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.”

“These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.”

“The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. And for millions of people like Mr. Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.”

“Mr. Nass at Stanford thinks the ultimate risk of heavy technology use is that it diminishes empathy by limiting how much people engage with one another, even in the same room.”

“‘The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other,’ he said. ‘It shows how much you care.’”

That empathy, Mr. Nass said, is essential to the human condition. ‘We are at an inflection point,’ he said. ‘A significant fraction of people’s experiences are now fragmented.’”

 

3) Studying attention & memory as it is effected by the technology & pace of modern culture. The findings suugest being off-grid & in nature repairs our tech-hysteria & dependence:

“But the trip’s organizer, David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, says that studying what happens when we step away from our devices and rest our brains — in particular, how attention, memory and learning are affected — is important science. ‘Attention is the holy grail,’ Mr. Strayer says. ‘Everything that you’re conscious of, everything you let in, everything you remember and you forget, depends on it.’”

“If we can find out that people are walking around fatigued and not realizing their cognitive potential,” Mr. Braver says, then pauses and adds: “What can we do to get us back to our full potential?” Mr. Kramer says he wants to look at whether the benefits to the brain — the clearer thoughts, for example — come from the experience of being in nature, the exertion of hiking and rafting, or a combination.”

“Mr. Atchley says he can see new ways to understand why teenagers decide to text even in dangerous situations, like driving. Perhaps the addictiveness of digital stimulation leads to poor decision-making. Mr. Yantis says a late-night conversation beneath stars and circling bats gave him new ways to think about his research into how and why people are distracted by irrelevant streams of information.”

“As they near the airport, Mr. Kramer also mentions a personal discovery: “I have a colleague who says that I’m being very impolite when I pull out a computer during meetings. I say: ‘I can listen.’ ”

“Maybe I’m not listening so well. Maybe I can work at being more engaged.”

 

4)  “Stuff” doesn’t make people happy, while experiences create a long lasting, woven tapestry of happiness– more and more people are asking the simple question, “But will it make me happy?”  We often mindlessly do what the rest of the crowds are doing…. But is it fulfilling?

One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.

“‘It’s better to go on a vacation than buy a new couch’ is basically the idea,” says Professor Dunn, summing up research by two fellow psychologists, Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich. Her own take on the subject is in a paper she wrote with colleagues at Harvard and the University of Virginia: “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right.” (The Journal of Consumer Psychology plans to publish it in a coming issue.)”

“Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness. (Academics are already in broad agreement that there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness; hence, anything that promotes stronger social bonds has a good chance of making us feel all warm and fuzzy.)”

 

 

5)  Not a study, but a narrative reaction to the impact of these technologies on the fragmentation within this pace of life (via The Economist): Why Americans cannot enjoy their holidays…  and how we don’t *really* get away anymore. Not only do we give back nearly five hundred million vacation days back each year… when we are on vacation, we aren’t really on vacation.

“Even when Americans do take time off, they find it hard to relax. Having holidayed for many years with the family of a Wall Street lawyer, your columnist’s slumber has all too often been disturbed in the early hours by the murmur of writs, affidavits and threatening letters being dictated by phone to New York from Provence, Tuscany and other otherwise tranquil locations. It may be that without this unremitting industry the lawyer and his family could not have afforded quite so many hops across the Atlantic. But it seems pretty clear that something cultural—that famous Puritan fear of idle hands and easeful nights—is at work as well.”

 

The final thought, something to dwell on, turn off the computer, and reconnect with:

6) THE JOY OF QUIET from the New York Times.

“In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.

Internet rescue camps in South Korea and China try to save kids addicted to the screen.”

“When telegraphs and trains brought in the idea that convenience was more important than content — and speedier means could make up for unimproved ends — Henry David Thoreau reminded us that “the man whose horse trots a mile in a minute does not carry the most important messages.” Even half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan, who came closer than most to seeing what was coming, warned, “When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.” Thomas Merton struck a chord with millions, by not just noting that “Man was made for the highest activity, which is, in fact, his rest,” but by also acting on it, and stepping out of the rat race and into a Cistercian cloister.”

“We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.”

“Other friends try to go on long walks every Sunday, or to “forget” their cellphones at home. A series of tests in recent years has shown, Mr. Carr points out, that after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.” More than that, empathy, as well as deep thought, depends (as neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have found) on neural processes that are “inherently slow.” The very ones our high-speed lives have little time for.”

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These are profound thoughts, and shatter many a world view.  This is a much more grounded, yet holistic, approach for understanding how we exist within our tech bubbles – balance and moderation.  We ignore constantly because it is quite un-American a concept  But the idea of scaling back touches on subtle commentary from the The Tao Te Ching (that link leads to the *ENTIRE* Stephen Mitchell Tao translation) about walking a centered path….

We need to re-center, and reconnect with what is truly important…

No, not our phones. Our – selves, our loves, our lives.

 

…. And maybe multi-tasking and constant professional vigilance isn’t proving anything to anyone, except that we silently suffer in unknown, embarrassed, agreement.

I already do this during the day, knowing an emergency someone will call and I am at my desk.  It has absolutely made me more productive.  I don’t take days away, buthalf days for sure.  It’s made me feel better too, because I see more getting done, rather than being inturrupted constantly.

We are in the first 1% of this tech, and it was all just thrown down on us, and we gobbled it up.  The role of marketing for business is to create a need, so that one feels less human without the product.  It’s no wonder, then, when you combine the revolution of communication exposing a passion for addiction, coupled with the ability to expertly target market demographics by influential segment, that we are on the hook.  We *will* develop customs and rules associated with what kind of tasks or jobs we have.  Some need more connectivity, some do not.  I imagine a future where people choosing professional fields will do so depending on quality of life due to over-connectivity.  The salary for being a ditch digger might not be good, but the perk will be no email; it might be worth it.
I imagine our children will either be firmly entrenched in the culture of tech, or like that “Joy of quiet” article said, they already have boundaries and rules associated with it that we do not have (no charging in bedroom, no phones during sleepovers, etc)… but I imagine they will be choosing professions based off of quality of life which includes technological commitments, vs the old world “how much do I get paid to suffer” mentality.

This will settle itself in time.  We are at a precariously anti-science moment in American politics, but it will be impossible to ignore these findings as they come along.  I believe they are akin to the subtle awareness that dawned on our culture when we understood smoking was dangerous and unhealthy.  In a few years, I believe social companies will face the same level of accountability and regulations that tobacco or alcohol groups face today. Some may scoff at that, but then again, when you are deeply addicted to something, your brain doesn’t operate properly and makes subtle justifications to further enable your addiction. Good luck with that.

 

 

I am not going to choose to not be reachable for two weeks. I will approve comments when I return. Although, there won’t be any, because the attention span we have for personal fulfillment is almost nil.  Good luck indeed.

Of course, the hypocrisy of using tech to badmouth doesn’t escape.  It’s an epoch of duality, one might say.  Let’s add a little more to the mix…

 

I give you Louis CK’s “Everything is amazing and no one is happy”

About Uncle Fishbits

I'm.. just this guy, you know?

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