In Jonathan Lee’s book, Overthinking: Declutter Your Mind, Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety and Eliminate Negative Thinking, he writes: “We are fascinated with technology, and every aspect of our lives has an impact. We are slaves to devices that were meant to improve our lives and prefer a fast fix to real-world interactions and experiences for instant knowledge and low-quality entertainment. We spend hours on social networks. Our inboxes are inundated. Our desktops are covered in litter. Our laptops burst at seams with more papers, images and downloads than we have been able to handle in life. Digital “things” fill your time with non-essential tasks and like your home’s physical disorder, digital disorder causes feelings of distress, frustration and feeling overwhelmed.”
What caught my attention in the above paragraph is Lee’s assertion that “we are slaves to devices.” I assume that before publishing such a claim in a popular book that’s readily available, Lee did his homework to back up such assertions. While I’m certainly not questioning his credibility, I decided to do some digging of my own to help corroborate his claim.
There has always been a part of me that believed our global society has become slaves to devices but always hoped that my assumptions were incorrect, or at least, not to the degrees I suspected.
After digesting a recent global report on the subject entitled Technology Addiction Statistics 2023, it seems that Lee’s assertion is grounded in reality.
- The average person spends more time being slaves to devices than sleeping, totaling 8 hours and 41 minutes per day.
- Users unlock their cell phones 150 times a day.
- Americans check their phones 96 times a day – that’s once every 10 minutes.
- 61% of internet users admit they are addicted to it.
- 47% of teenage boys admit to spending too much time playing video games.
- A person spends an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on social media alone.
These are just some of the highlights from the global report mentioned above, whose in-depth details are simply too numerous to mention in this post. But what the above report (and many others like it) help to do is corroborate Lee’s assertion that “we are slaves to devices.” Let me give you a real-world example.
The other night, my wife and I were visiting family when an unexpected weather event descended upon the area. Strong winds and torrential rain had interrupted what had been an otherwise pleasant afternoon while disrupting internet service throughout the area. Suddenly, a house so heavily dependent on digital devices and smart technologies for the simplest of functions was crippled by the internet outage.
The father in the household was checking his phone every ten minutes waiting for updates from their internet service provider as to when full operation would be restored, growing more and more anxious with each passing moment as he seemed to be unable to adapt to the loss of connectivity to the world-wide-web. He even questioned what they were going to do later on in the evening if they were unable to access the internet – a downfall of having such a heavily smart-programmed home.
I sat there puzzled. While losing internet service is annoying and troublesome if you’re working remotely as it could prevent you from successfully doing your job, I’m not sure I see any reason to panic if you’re sitting comfortably in your home with your family.
This example solidified my belief that our global society has in fact become slaves to devices and technology, and I believe it speaks to our inability to be resilient in today’s fast-moving digital age. Resiliency is the ability to withstand unforeseen circumstances with focus and composure, rather than working ourselves into an anxious frenzy because we no longer know how to function simplistically; we no longer can be in the company of family or friends without the continual distraction our devices provide.
But beyond a lack of resiliency, being slaves to devices also shows just how little we mean to each other as 75% of respondents admitted that they look at their phones even when someone else is speaking right in front of them. Take note the next time you’re visiting family or friends while sharing a story. Chances are you don’t even realize they’re doing it as we’ve all become numb to this lack of social etiquette.
Only after you fully comprehend the story being told by the Technology Addiction Statistics report I highlighted above, do you realize that far too many of us ARE slaves to devices. We simply cannot normally function if and when those devices are no longer online, operational, or at arm’s length.
There’s no denying that technology has positively impacted many areas of our lives, and adopting such technologies is not always a bad thing. However, when you no longer possess the ability to effectively function and behave without the presence of those technologies, we are now slaves to devices.
Abhijit Naskar, neuroscientist, author, poet, and advocate for global mental health, writes, “It is okay to own a technology, what is not okay is to be owned by technology.”