By Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium
We take it for granted that more of our time and attention is spent staring into a screen. It's become our central interface with the world. In fact, we're consuming as about three times the amount of information today that we did in 1960, according to researchers at University of California, San Diego.
What this does to our brains, our attention span, our relationships, even our moods, however, is being studied as we speak. There is no definitive answer, yet. But we conducted a survey at meQuilibrium to find out what impact screen time was having on people's lives, attention spans, outlook -- and even we were shocked at what we found.
We Can't Ignore Them
It would be one thing if our phones just sat there quietly until we needed them. But they don't. They exert a kind of tyranny over our attention and actions. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they cannot ignore their devices and check them within an hour of receiving an email, text, or alert -- and 81 percent of those surveyed interrupt conversations, meals, all kinds of fun things, to do it.
Rethink the urge. When you feel yourself reaching for your phone, hit pause. Ask yourself what could be gained from checking right now. Delay it--especially if you're in the middle of food or conversation.
We Feel Worse After Checking
I could almost understand the Pavlovian response we have to buzzing and ringing if we were guaranteed to feel better after tuning in to our screens. But it turns out we'll stop mid-sentence or mid-chew to check our email and texts--only to feel worse. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed reported feeling jealous, depressed, or even annoyed after checking updates! It's no surprise, then, that 73 percent of respondents believe that their devices contribute to stress in their lives. (Learn more about the stress epidemic and how it's impacting you.)
Rethink the effects. Next time you do a quick scan of email, text, and social networks, ask yourself, what did you learn and how did it make you feel? We rarely take the time to reflect on it, but doing so and owning up to how it makes you feel and what, if anything, it's doing for you, is the first step to making a shift.
We Spend More Time With Screens Than People
It's bad enough that we'll stop what we're doing with those we love to do something that will undoubtedly leave us more stressed -- but more and more people are opting for screen time over the company of others. Three out of five people admitted to spending more of their free time on their computers than with their significant others.
Rethink your time. Rather than let digital inertia take over, make a plan: to go out, to see people, to get food, meet someone for a walk. It does require an extra effort to put yourself in front of other people, even the ones you live with -- but the rewards you'll reap from that company will outweigh anything you'll find on Facebook.
Your device isn't evil unto itself, of course. But the more you can become aware of your own habits and the effect your screen time is having on you, the more in control of your attention you can be.
Find out more about how meQuilibrium can help you shift your mood, reduce stress levels, and sharpen your focus.
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Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, www.mequilibrium.com, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.
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