This episode is by listener request, and is all about screen time and its effects on us as individuals, as a culture, and its effects on developing minds. It was a highly relevant and valuable topic to dive into so I thank Charlie Mudd for the recommendation. Topics include:

  • Our collective denial about our digital addictions (yes, all of us). 

  • The ways in which we rationalize our addictions as "necessary." And if there's one thing humans are collectively amazing at it's rationalizing any behavior. 

  • The fact that technology and the most popular apps are designed the same way sugary snacks and sodas are designed: by scientists and engineers that expertly exploit weaknesses in our minds and bodies to ensure we have a compulsion to stay on our devices.

  • And since every listener at this point is telling themselves that, sure, other people are addicted, but not me, I throw out some data to support this conclusion.

  • Then I move into the consequences of this behavior. Nothing we do in this life is without consequences, whether good or bad. 

  • The first consequence is that we're losing our ability to be present. When we're not present, we're not living in reality. Instead we are living in the past or the future, both of which lead to mental health decline.

  • Speaking of which, our next consequence is the rampant depression and anxiety our society is experiencing. Now I'm not going to pretend that our devices are the only cause for this, because there are myriad reasons, but our digital addictions are a major factor.

  • And social media is like pouring gas on the fire. It does a wonderful job of forcing us to pretend our lives are more enviable than they really are and really just creating fictitious versions of ourselves in general. Also, social media does a top notch job at highlighting the vast inequities of life and rubbing them in your face. It's natural human behavior to compare ourselves and we're left feeling the full weight of this world's lack of justice and equity.

  • And of course we have to address the fact that the internet has become a place where spitting pure hatred and vitriol is normal day-to-day behavior. Now I know that anybody that lashes out at people in that manner is very sick themselves, but people still take these attacks very personally. And to the developing mind that doesn't understand this it's no wonder why suicide rates in the 10-16 range are through the roof, which is nothing short of a tragedy.

  • The next consequence is social interactions and connections. We're losing the ability to having meaningful interactions with our friends, families, and neighbors alike. Even when we get together it often ends up being just a group of people individually on their phones. We mistakenly think that social media and digital engagement is the same thing as genuine human connection and interaction and it's not even close. In our collective stupor we experience extreme feelings of loneliness and isolation, even when surrounded by friends and family.

  • The next consequence is our attention spans, which have been utterly decimated. This has ushered us into the sensationalist click-bait world we live in now. And it's not just the tabloid style websites using this model. The "reputable" news agencies are adopting the same model because they are corporations concerned with clicks, traffic, and profits, not quality and valuable news reporting. 

  • Then we talk about the dopamine model of instant gratification and how it's an ouroboros that results in us never getting anything meaningful accomplished in our lives. 

  • The next consequence is our inability to sit still with our own thoughts. Our worlds have become entirely external and our phones have become self-soothing devices.

  • The next consequence is hormone dysfunction and dysregulation. Constant phone use keeps you in an alert beta brainwave state, which keeps cortisol levels very high. Add to that the excessive amounts of blue light and our melatonin and circadian rhythms are extremely dysfunctional. This keeps us up way later than we would be and prevents restful and restorative sleep.

  • The next consequence is the absolute onslaught of the worst news of a world of more than 7 billion people. This leaves us feeling hopeless and pessimistic about the future. Also, the availability of information leads us into echo chambers where we validate our pre-existing beliefs based on opinions and blogs and social media groups where facts and evidence are not important. We don't use the wealth of knowledge the internet has to learn new things or expose ourselves to new ideas. We use it to validate our flawed thinking.

  • The next consequence is the physical changes these devices make to us. Studies are starting to show how the frontal lobe as well as our cognitive abilities are being impaired by constant screen time.

  • We take a dive into how our digital addictions are being impressed upon our children from the time they are born. Children learn through imitation. If they see their parent always staring at a phone then they're going to become conditioned for digital addiction. And while we're scrolling our devices we're not engaging with our children and we're not present with them. And using a screen as an easy solution to pacify our children is lazy parenting that will ultimately hurt your child's long term development and social skills.

  • In this week's CTA we evaluate our own screen time and the effects it's having on us and our children. How "necessary" is all your screen time? How much of it is just you rationalizing? How often do you look up from your phone just to see your child staring at you, wanting to engage and connect, but you're not there? 

  • And think about what you're not doing while your mindlessly scrolling. Think of all the things you could be doing but aren't because you're stuck in the instant gratification black hole. 

  • Now I understand that these devices are an integral component of our lives, but we need to raise our awareness of the effects they're having so that we can make efforts to mitigate the worst and most damaging effects. 

  • Do a quick thought exercise: think of yourself on your deathbed. Do you think you'll regret not spending enough time scrolling social media or do you think you'll regret not spending enough quality time connecting with the ones you love the most? 

  • Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and leave a review and share it with someone who could benefit from this information. And be sure to follow me on Instagram @ThinkersApprentice

Books referenced: The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety, by Alan Watts