Why Can’t We Look Away from Our Screens?
- by: Hank Berkowitz
- March 17, 2017
As parents of two teenage boys, my wife and I went to see the award-winning documentary Screenagers the other night at our local community center. We weren’t alone. If you are worried about the amount of time your tech-savvy kids or grandchildren are spending on their devices, then this film is a must-see. Since Screenagers isn’t shown in most commercial theaters, you’ll have to find it at a local school, church synagogue or community center. It’s worth the effort.
In a new book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, social psychologist Adam Alter warns that our devotion to digital devices has morphed into something very much like addiction.
As Alter described in a recent New York Times interview, addiction is no longer limited to getting hooked on chemical substances such as heroin, cocaine and nicotine. It’s really about seeking any experience that makes us feel good. That’s because when we do, our brains to release the neurotransmitter dopamine and we keep coming back for another hit of the feel-good chemical. It could be getting likes on social media or getting to the next level on your favorite online game.
“We’ll get a flood of dopamine that makes us feel wonderful in the short term, though in the long term you build a tolerance and want more,” noted Alter. Not surprisingly, Alter found that game producers often pretest different versions of a release to see which one is hardest to resist and which will keep your attention longest. It must be working.
A Gallup poll found that half of U.S. smartphone users check their devices at least several times per hour and that 60 percent of adults keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep. A Good Technology survey of 1,000 workers found that half of respondents check their emails during the night. Sure, some of that checking in is for work-related purposes (or work-related paranoia), but gaming companies and social media platforms know our gadgets are perfect delivery devices for addictive media. If games and social media were once confined to our home computers, portable devices permit us to engage with them everywhere.
Alter said, “find more time to be in natural environments, to sit face to face with someone in a long conversation without any technology in the room. There should be times of the day where it looks like the 1950s or where you are sitting in a room and you can’t tell what era you are in. You shouldn’t always be looking at screens.”
*** New Insta Poll: How many times per month are you communicating with clients? Early results show that about half of you are not communicating often enough. See how you stack up to your peers (Our latest Insta Poll is on the right side of our home page). Maybe it’s time you put the devices down and picked up the old fashioned phone a little more.
TAGS: Screenagers, Delaney Ruston, Adam Alter, tech addiction