I want to talk to you today about an addiction, one that many of us share but we usually ignore and. I’m speaking about the smartphone addiction. A year ago, I was working for a startup. We developed an iphone application to try to get you the best videos from all around the web. We wanted to make people entertain and happy and excited during the day but we also wanted to make some money. And we knew that the best way to make some money is, if as many people as possible, we’ll use the application for his many minutes a day. So I signed up for this workshop which was all about how to get people hooked to your app. They showed us how with negative emotions like being lonely, or bored, or dissatisfied, you can use them as internal triggers and get people try your app and then stay there for as long as possible. In the middle of the workshop, something changed in me, I raised my head, I looked around me, and I saw 80 other people sharing the same goal I have, “get people hooked” to their apps. And I started to feel uncomfortable. And that was because me, I’m smart phonetic myself. So this is how my morning is used to look like waking up, turning off the alarm clock and then dealing with dozens of notifications, what’s up, Facebook, Instagram, email, working email from my boss, my colleagues, etc. And then an hour later I find myself still in bed, in my boxer shorts, in a very uncomfortable posture, my teeth are not brushed, I didn’t have a shower, coffee yet. What is going on? So I decided I need to change and it came up with this project and digitize me which is all about raising awareness to smartphone addiction. I then started to collect some data. I wanted to see other people have the same problems like I do, and I found that indeed they do.
Well apparently, most of us, well the average user, is checking his smartphone at least 110 times a day. And in Stanford, they found out the three quarters of the students said, they would rather forget the wallet than their iphone when they go out of the home. And the same around of people said they are falling asleep with their phone. But it’s not just about me and my phone, it’s also a social thing right? Pacific Bell Wireless, a big phone company back in 1999 did the survey. They asked people if they find it rude to use phone in public. More than ninety percent said they find it really rude to use the phone in restaurants, at the dinner, at the movies, in the classroom, well where everyone else is. But now several years later, it became so common for people to use the phone around others. Actually, we already have a special word for it, it’s called “Phubbing”. It’s when you snub someone who sits next to you or in front of you or maybe even talking to you by using your phone. So I wanted to know, Is it a real addiction? Can we call it an addiction? Because you could say this is just a lot of use. Apparently there are some similarities between the smartphone addiction to other addictions, for example, when a smoker can’t get his cigarette, he feel stressful, he feels anxious. It’s the same for an alcoholic who can’t get his drink. And apparently we feel stressed when we can’t get our phone on or when our battery’s about to die. You probably know this feeling. And a research done in Australia, among three thousand people under the age of 30 found that nine out of every ten admit to feel this anxiety while having his battery dying. I have two amazing nephews, they are three and eight years old. And as the technologist, I love watching them growing, pinching, scrolling, swiping, hitting the touch screen even taking selfies before they knew how to read. But I also couldn’t help to wonder, is there a cost to it? And apparently there is.
There are multiple studies showing relations between development of kids and things who happened to our brain. Apparently over use of screens can really lead to loss of tissue volume in the gray matter areas in our brains specifically in a place called the front lobe. This is a place where our cross’s sync functions happened. Things like prioritizing, planning, and everything else we used to call, we needed for, get things done. A different area affected is the insula. This is where the kid is learning how to create empathy and compassion for others. But it’s not just the kids right? What about the parents? In Boston Medical, they went to observe some parents with their kids in fast food restaurants the US. They watch a lot of families eating dinner together and they saw that so many parents are looking at your phone while dining with their kids. One third of them was constantly on the phone. And what happened when a parent glued to his phone was interrupted by a kid, by his kid, usually it was a negative reaction. I tried to understand why are we so addicted? What is going on with us? And I found some more relations. One research found in Harvard Psychology Department is showing that sharing information about ourselves, like we like to do through the smartphone, activates the same part in our brain that is related to pleasure, the same pleasure we get from getting money, eating food, or even having sex. And another thing is our fear to miss out. We are so afraid we’re missing out so we use the Facebook page newsfeed, and the Instagram newsfeed and Twitter to see what others are doing. But actually what we are is we’re missing out on the real world, on reality. AVG study from the US discovered that fifty-seven percent of women would rather give up sex than their Smartphone for a week. And in the UK, a different study shows that around the same percentage, admitted that they are checking their smart phones while having sex. I also notice that I don’t day dream anymore because in every spare second I’m on my phone. I don’t look out the window anymore, I don’t sit under the trees, but history is full of high achievers, day dreamers like Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. And we so love to imagine how Newton sit under the tree or Einstein looked out the other window, and this is the moment where they had their best ideas. And indeed we can see that it is has to do a lot with creativity and daydreaming is not just about creativity it’s also about our memory.
Research found that in order to store memories into long-term memories, there is a two-step process. In the first step that brings taking the new impressions and store it in a temporal place but then in order to take this and move it to a long-term memory, we need to let our brain rest and this is what we do when we daydream. All these studies made me really think, I need to make a change, I need to start raise awareness and make people speak about it. So I asked my friends what are the moments in your life you would rather put your phone down, you would rather put it aside. And then I take a few pictures of them, after five pictures I took, something overwhelming happened. My email started to fill up with more than 500 photos within two weeks of other people wanting to participate in the campaign and not just from Israel also from all around the world. Volunteers joint and help me and we started to get dozens of emails of people telling us amazing stories and the best story I would never forget is one that I got from an Australian guy. This Australian guy told me how he’s 14 years old daughter is getting in the room seeing him and his wife looking at the smartphone totally ignoring her, and she tells them mom, dad, this is so unsocial. So he decided from then on that in dinner time, no one is using the phone for two hours. And he wrote me so excited how our campaign really changed him.
The next thing I wanted to do is something about the little kids so I partnered with a psycho therapist working with kids to create a book for kids who are addicted to the screens. But it’s not a book was supposed to scare the kids or tell them to not use the smartphones anymore or any screen. It’s a book to encourage them to go out and look at the world and see how amazing and beautiful the world is out there. Well for sure our biggest event was on last March that was the day and night of unplugging.
A few years ago, there was a new tradition in the US, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, small groups started to celebrate one day of unplugging for a year. For 24 hours we put the smartphone somewhere else and we just enjoy whatever there. So I and my Psycho therapist partner decided that we must get it to Tel Aviv and make it the biggest event ever. And so we did, for two months we want all over to the Tel Aviv convincing people to join us, but actually we didn’t have to convince. The feedback was so good, we had yoga studios, coffee shops, and the best bars in Tel Aviv not allowing people to get with their smart phones inside their businesses that day. They also miss the time when people really actually used to engage with each other. We learned a lot in the day of unplugging. 24 hours is enough time for someone to get out of the anxiety and really start to connect back to real life. But I must say if you think I’m against technology or against the smartphone, you didn’t get me right. The smartphone is an amazing device, it’s a magical device, I’m in love with it not just as a device but also as a technologist. And there are also amazing applications who are really positive they can help me grow habits like a diet, meditation, running, and so on. It’s doing so much good to science but having said that, we still know that the changes we’ve seen in the last few years are nothing compared to what we are going to face in the next decade or two. We get starting to get really commercial. Now cooperating with the popular eyewear brand, the Ray Ban and google has a patent pending which is that for a contact lens you can really use by blinking. And what about wearable technology, clothes, watches, this is the big trend. So eventually technology will be embedded in our physical bodies and our future can be even more hectic and less relaxed than what we do today unless we make a change. And I do not want to speak about unplugging, I want to speak about a diet. Some apps reminds me junk food but other applications are like healthy organic food and just like we became aware to what we eat, we need to become aware to what and how much we consume. The Western world has so many cases of diabetes and then we decided to start educating our kids and ourselves about sugar balance right. So why can’t we do it for the digital diet. And it’s up to me and you to start thinking about it and understand how this digital diet is about to look like so let’s start with today.
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