The following was presented last week as part of my book event series
A year after publishing my best-selling book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, the most popular question I’m asked is, “How do I get my kids off their phone?” After speaking with many psychologists, researchers, parents, and tech experts, in addition to testing said advice on my own household, I’ve found five convincing answers to this timely and challenging question.
But why are so many people asking this question? The short answer is parents love their kids and know first-hand how addictive said devices can be, especially for developing minds. The long answer involves stark evidence that smartphones: a) complicate childhood, b) increase exposure to bullying and sexual content, c) impair sleep, and d) increase both anxiety and depression.
Because of this, most psychologists, medical experts, and even tech executives recommend delaying or waiting until age 14 for basic voice and texting phones, and then up to 16 for smartphones and/or data plans. “There is no reason that a teenager really needs a smartphone,” says one Silicon Valley psychologist. “They are not taking care of a family, nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for their needs.”
When you consider that these devices can be just as powerful as (or more so than) driving a car, it’s no coincidence that the ideal age falls within legal driving range of 14-16 (depending on the state). Nevertheless, the responsibility lies upon parents, guardians, teachers, and our collective villages to teach and instruct children on how to use and get the most from this powerful tools while avoiding the negative heads-down behavior they often cause.
If you’re hoping for a silver bullet to rid your children of their bad phone habits, I cannot help you. But if you looking for proven advice that’s easy to understand but often difficult to master, consider these five effective ways, according to the latest research: Continue reading…
Remember that time you went online in search of a simple answer, only to find yourself, two hours later, clicking on links that had nothing to do with the original answer you sought?
That’s a dopamine loop. It’s the scientific reason we end up online more than we plan to. It explains why we can’t put our smartphones down. It explains why some people neglect real life in favor of virtual life. And it leads to compulsive disorders, similar to those who are addicted to chemical stimulants and depressants such as cocaine, caffeine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and alcohol.
“Dopamine starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking, which makes us seek more,” explains Dr. Susan Weinschenk. “It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, texts, web links, or our smartphones to see if we have a new message or alert.”
Worst still, research shows the dopamine system is bottomless. Since it doesn’t have satiation built in, dopamine keeps demanding “more, more, more!” And it goes absolutely bonkers when unpredictability is introduced—say, an unexpected email, text, or app alert from who knows what and who knows whom. Surprise! It’s just like Pavlov’s famous and classically conditioned dogs, for those who remember your introductory college psychology course.
“It’s the same system at work for gambling and slot machines,” explains Weinschenk. “Since dopamine is involved in variable reinforcement schedules, it’s especially sensitive to dings, visual alerts, or any other cue that a reward is coming, which sends our dopamine system raging.”
And so we stay online and on our phones longer than anticipated. We forgo our offline lives. It’s science.
I spent nearly 10 years researching and experimenting with healthy connectivity habits for my book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. The book contains dozens or reports and studies from “real news” outlets and distinguished universities from around the world, all of which conclude that excessive internet, social media, and/or smartphone use make us miserable. More specifically, overuse makes us more isolated, less confident, prevents us from experiencing the more stimulating analog world, and even dumber.
But recent research suggests that digital abuse may be even worse for us than originally thought. In an eye-opening expose this week, The Atlantic reported on the rise of sexual recession, in which young people are engaging in fewer intimate relationships than ever before and marrying less. Excessive phone use shoulder much, if not all, of the blame, the magazine reports. Continue reading…
In his first book, recognized journalist Blake Snow offers humorous, well-researched, and insightful advice on how to break free and enjoy renewed life offline
Provo, UT (December 19, 2017) – Do you or someone you know need a little help unplugging this holiday or new year? If so, Log Off: How To Stay Connected After Disconnecting by Blake Snow (ISBN 978-1973543749, 2017) may have the answer and is available now at the world’s largest bookstore in paperback, ebook, and audiobook editions.
The self-help memoir and well-researched book is the first for Snow, a prolific writer for such publications as Wired, USA Today, CNN, and Wall Street Journal among others. The book produces convincing evidence and a path forward for people hoping to reclaim their offline lives without the constant distraction and “fear of missing out” caused by the internet, social media, and smartphones.
“With Facebook recently admitting as much, it’s official,” says Blake Snow, author of Log Off: How To Stay Connected After Disconnecting. “Excessive use of smartphones, the internet, and social media makes us miserable. Although I wrote this life-changing book for myself, I feel strongly that the ideas and encouragement contained therein can help others find greater fulfillment, peace of mind, and better relationships after responsibly logging off.”
In this quick but potent read, Snow recounts his own journey from being a workaholic internet addict, his awakening (aka “Montana Moment”), and the steps he has since taken to increase his facetime with actual people, do more offline with less online, double his productivity in half the time, and tunefully blend his analog and digital lives with no regrets. Continue reading…
“Your phone is ruining your life,” writes David Pierce, who, like many others, ignorantly blames the object instead of the abuser. Rather than setting boundaries on his technology, Pierce and others like him egotistically search for reasons to be elsewhere in thought and suffer the consequence. Continue reading…
“I really wish I spent more time on my phone,” said no one ever. I doubt anyone will.
And yet, many of us can’t resist the Kavorka of our phones, in times of idleness or activity. What’s a modern human to do?
Don’t worry, Internet denizens. I got you. After five years on a lean, enlivening, and offline-rich phone diet, here are eight things you can do right now to put your phone in check, free yourself from its compulsive clutches, and live in the moment: Continue reading…
I don’t know if falling in love is more challenging today than it was before. But it can’t be easy with the constant allure, cover, and distraction of smartphones.
Case in point: I saw a guy macking on a girl recently—or at least trying to. He was obviously interested; his attention undivided. She was preoccupied with her phone, however. She occasionally rejoined his advances with peppered smiles and words, but she mostly focused her attention on the tarot card-sized device she cradled in hand and poked at with thumbs.
From a distance, I couldn’t tell if she was coping with embarrassment behind her phone, considering a counter-flirt, or not at all interested. If I had to guess, I’d bet on the latter because newly crushing or in love couples usually stay fixated on each other’s eyes. Of course, interested males are horrible at deciphering this universal truth — always have been, always will, with or without smartphones. But I know first-hand how complicating phones can be to loving relationships. Continue reading…
I’m convinced that cellular data plans will someday replace the broadband cable lines most of us still use to access the internet. I also think data plans are great for mobile workers, extended-stay vacationers, or anyone else who doesn’t have access to the internet for the entirety of the work day.
I also know, however, that the last four years of my life after quitting my data plan have been irreversibly better than the four previous years in which I subscribed to a plan. The reason I abandoned the portable internet? In short, I did it because I was tired of being on a self-imposed work leash. That and the “always there” internet didn’t mesh well with my indulgent lust for information. So I cut it.
A lot of people I encounter are surprised by this, mostly because the mainstream view incorrectly assumes that staying on an internet-connected smartphone for extended periods lets you get ahead in life (i.e. make more money). It doesn’t. It’s just an illusion. In fact, all-day internetting actually leads to less inspired work, since obsessive users are never able to truly break away, recharge their batteries, and return to work with a hungry mind.
Nevertheless, smartphones are still great, even on dumb plans like mine. Here’s why: Continue reading…
After six (sometimes) productive years, I abandoned the sinking ship that is BlackBerry last week. In it’s place, I upgraded to the “magical,” status-enhancing iPhone.
As early adopters discovered a few years ago, it’s more than a phone: it’s the greatest piece of personal technology ever invented. Phone, texter, navigator, iPod, mini TV, game console, digital assistant, e-reader, and tiny computer all in one. Not only did it serve as the inspiration for the more popular Android clone, the iPhone is the more organic and less painful version of touchscreen phones, i.e. not unlike what Macs often are to Windows machines.
Of course, like all smartphones, the iPhone can be a total drag on your analog life if you don’t set limits. (In my case, that means shunning a data plan, turning off all alerts except for voice calls, staying away from it as much as possible on nights and weekends, and only connecting to the internet when I need it, as opposed to the more common always-on, always wired, and always distracting “push” internet mode. More on that in my forthcoming book.)
But the iPhone gets a whole lot more right than it gets wrong. In fact, I count only three usability flaws on the device: Continue reading…
Using iOS is still less of a pain than using Android. That is, the form is still better.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the attached ad is incredibly effective in speaking to the majority of smartphone users who don’t appreciate, nor do they want to associate with, the millions of off-putting Apple fans parodied above.
In any case, wouldn’t it be great if phones could go back to being useful tools rather than modern day golden calves?
Samsung sponsored this guy Kenton Cool (awesome name) to summit Mount Everest for a ninth time this month. In exchange, the company had him place the first cell phone call ever from the highest point on Earth, to his wife. What a moment.
Update: As of 2013, data is now included with my cell phone plan. But thanks to my four year break from it, mobile data no longer interrupts my life like it use to. When used sparingly, it actually enhances it.
My quality of life has improved while productivity has remained constant. By that I mean I get as much done as I did before, only now I enjoy a lot more personal time without work interfering. In many cases, that translates into greater productivity upon returning to work the next morning or after the weekend. Believe it or not.
My relationship with my wife and children has improved. I recognize them more. I play with them more. With fewer alerts to interrupt us, it’s a lot more fun now.
I wrote on article on cell phone abuse, to be published on GigaOM, and was unable to use the following, which I thought was rather insightful:
“When cell phones were first introduced, they were expensive and obtrusive,” says Dr. Lisa Merlo, professor of psychology at the University of Florida. “As a result, the people who had them and used them did so for ‘important’ reasons. For example, physicians might have a cell phone while on-call. So, people excused the rudeness associated with talking on a cell phone because there was a legitimate reason for doing so. However, cell phones have become ubiquitous, and the rules have not changed to accommodate this.”
Let’s be clear: Walking around with a Bluetooth device in your ear is pure douchebaggery. There is no excuse for it… If you’re out among normals, flaunting your tech doesn’t make you look like the King of Coolsville, it makes you look like Count Clueless of Dorkylvania.
Multi-color LED alerts. One of the best features of the BlackBerry is the ability to glance at it from afar without activating the screen to see if you have an unread message. For example, the little LED in the upper right corner blinks red when I have a new message. But I wish I could set different types of messages to display different color alerts. For example, the Curve’s LED blinks blue when in Blue Tooth mode, and green when fully charged. Why not put those colors to good use?
My Blackberry inexplicably died on Saturday afternoon while napping on the kitchen counter. Two years of age seemingly put the kibosh on the device’s ability to connect to T-mobile.
So I called T-mobile to solve the issue. It turned out my phone had in fact died and was no longer under warranty. I would need to buy a new phone.
Reality bearing down, I decided to do what I’ve done so many times to successful results as a consumer: ask if my continued business would be worth an exception — in this case having to fork over $100 for a replacement.
“You’ve been with us a long time, Mr. Snow,” the last manager happily said over the phone. “We’ll send out a new phone right away (read: your $1200/year cell phone account is worth a $100 concession).”
I got to thinking today of the popularity of cell phones and just how intrusive they have become in our lives. I stopped to think when I bought my first plan. Technically, I bought a prepaid cell phone back in 2001 for my mother sorta as a family phone when I worked for Cingular. But I didn’t get my own plan until 2003 (call me a late bloomer). So…
I dislike cell phones. I do enjoy how they allow people to stay aurally connected just about anywhere, but I dislike them so much that I held off on purchasing one until a mere four years ago in 2002. They just seem too obtrusive (like my BlackBerry isn’t, right?). Regardless, I really liked what Paul Allen had to say on cell phones in his recent interview with Business Q: “I’ve had my phone on ‘vibrate’ for 10 years. I’ve never interrupted a meeting. Why can’t everyone one put their phones on vibrate?”
Amen to that. Just last week, Lindsey and I had some guests over for dinner. While eating, a cell phone rang and one of the guest answered it and began talking on the line during the meal. They didn’t even bother to excuse them self and take the call into another room. Now I know emergencies happen, but they can’t make up more than 1% of mobile calls.
Call me old-fashioned, but what’s the rush in answering cell phones? Are we really that important? And please, everyone put their phones on vibrate, and at the least, don’t answer them during dinner.