Reduce Your Screen Time

REDUCE YOUR SCREEN TIME

I am not talking about actors, artists and dramatists. I am talking about the normal average YOU and I.

Exposure to screen is casting a bad spell on us as a human being and on our health and longevity. I read an excellent book on the topic.  I give below certain extracts from the book “YOUR BRAIN ON NATURE – The Science of Nature’s Influence on your Health, Happiness and Vitality “by Eva M Selhub and Alan C Logan, published by John Wiley & Sons Canada.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO BUY THE BOOK IN HARD COPY (NOT AN E-BOOK) AND REMEMBER TO READ IT WHILE SOAKING IN THE SUN IN THE WOODS.

— nytanaya

 

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The Internet and its connectivity have countless benefits. From support groups of various types to local and global community organizations, connectivity can be a source of comfort and a mechanism for positive change. Both of us embrace technology and appreciate the many ways in which it has enhanced health care and quality of life. Professionally and personally we rely on computers, use wireless devices and MP3 players, dabble in Facebook—and at least one of us has been known to send a tweet or two. However, we are skeptical of the prevalent sense in Western culture that more technology in our lives and greater immersion in information automatically promotes well-being and happiness. Unfortunately, most of us continue to race to keep up with the latest toys. However, evidence is mounting that chasing technological gadgets for a brighter future—one that never arrives—is taking its toll…….

…..many of us have become slaves to our screens. We use the screen to consume some 12 hours of information per day via television, the Internet, texting, music, and games. Researchers who have tracked information consumption since 1980 have found massive increases in info consumption, and it’s not just within the workplace: nonwork-related info consumption has increased 350 percent. In 1999, so-called “problem” computer use, the type associated with anxiety and depression, averaged 27 hours a week. Fast-forward to 2012 and we are all way past that average: we could clock 27 hours of screen time in just a few days. We’re plowing through information, merely skimming its surface, and we are taking time away from other activities to focus on our screens.

Even if we weren’t under the thumb of our devices, we’re hardly exploiting our leisure time to our benefit. And, sadly, we can keep dreaming about the 20-hour full-time workweek facilitated by the microchip. What wasn’t anticipated was that computers and wireless devices would blur the lines of work and home. Checking work e-mails is standard, even expected, during evenings, weekends, and vacations—75 percent of workers aged 18 to 44 check e-mail while on vacation. And the lure is magnetic: almost 40 percent describe themselves as either frequent or compulsive checkers while on vacation. In the meantime, marketing wizards entice us with the promise that the latest gadget will be the one, the iSomething that will solve our problems. Never mind that tons of e-devices are considered obsolete and discarded by consumers every year, which should suggest that, in fact, last year’s device wasn’t the one.

Screen culture has not fostered a better world for individuals or, at this point, society. Those who might suggest otherwise will have a difficult time explaining the modern stress epidemic; the high rates of mental health disorders, childhood learning and behavioral disorders, and sleep problems; the declines in IQ; and an overall lack of happiness in regions so chock-full of apps. The “more screens in more places” principle is not promoting health. Marketing continues to sell the notion that the road to happiness is paved with more screens—larger screens for your wall and smaller screens for your pocket—and screen-based social connectivity. Yet, juxtaposed against our social reality, where empathy is down and a trucker is hauling Prozac to a metropolis near you, this is clearly not the case. There is a broad divide between the optimism of cyber-utopia served up in the 1960s and our current state of affairs. A closer examination of North American mental and cognitive health reveals the counterfeit promissory notes written on the technological revolution.

Stress, Depression, and Anxiety

Happiness continues to be elusive. For proof, look no further than the 2,000 books with the word “happiness” in the title within amazon.com’s Health section—a full 75 percent of all books with the word “happiness” in the title were published after the year 2000….

Diminished Cognitive Edge

… Large studies from different developed nations have reported a decline in IQ beginning in the late 1990s (in concert with the dawn of digital mania), such that a decade of IQ gains has been wiped out in the years 1998 to 2004.

Decreased Empathy

… Heavy Internet users score low on emotional intelligence, which is a measure of how one uses emotions in solving problems. Emotional intelligence is predicated on the ability to use verbal and nonverbal cues to monitor the emotional state of others. This enhances cooperation and understanding in work and social settings, ultimately leading to resiliency to stress and an edge in navigating real-world interactions. In line with lowered emotional intelligence, electrophysiological studies of brain activity have determined that heavy Internet users have alterations in the way they perceive and process the human face. In human interactions, empathy is often predicated on the perception of even the most minor facial cues indicating distress.

The research is clear: when we neglect important social cues in the face of environmental overload, there is, quite simply, a lowered probability of empathy and social concern.

Affecting Longevity and Health

…. In a 2011 study of over 4,500 adults followed for several years, total screen time was associated with a higher risk of death. And the risk increase was not small: it was 52 percent higher versus those with the least screen time. Surprisingly, exercise or lack thereof wasn’t the mediating factor. Among those who logged the highest amount of screen time, being physically active reduced their risk of dying from any cause by a mere 4 percent (to 48 percent higher risk of dying!) compared with those who exercised and had the least screen time. Australian researchers report that lifetime TV viewing time is in itself a factor that reduces life expectancy, carrying with it a comparable risk of mortality with that of obesity and physical inactivity. Consider also that when innovative screen restrictors are placed on televisions and computers (shaving off about two hours of screen time per day), the end result is a reduction in body mass index and caloric intake in young children with obesity.

Wired for Info-Desire

… Information, regardless of its quality, is now emerging as a type of highly palatable food in its ability to fire up the dopamine reward neurons. Once the dopamine reward system is engaged, it will in turn further reinforce information seeking. In a sea of instant information and trivia, the info-rewards are numerous and at the ready to fire up the brain’s reward system. This explains a lot about why we can’t extract ourselves from our gadgets. It explains why taking a tech break is so difficult. Quite simply, that incoming text or unopened e-mail is like a tiny little gift wrapped up with a bow; it’s got your name on it, and it might just provide valuable information.

…. This global village we have created offers far too many tiny little gifts wrapped up with bows. We are overloaded with information, and we struggle to separate information of actual value to us from that which is akin to junk food. The fast-food-style info merely provides a temporary feel-good fix in the form of a little jolt of dopamine in the reward centers of the brain.

Daily Hassles and Stress Physiology

… Much has been written on the influence of stress in human health. Early on, this research focused on the connection between major stressors—significant life changes, major losses, and trauma—and their detrimental effects on physical and mental well-being. More recently, researchers have been looking closely at the health-erosive properties of chronic low-grade stress. Like waves eroding a shoreline, a steady stream of minor stressors can also take a toll on health and well-being. Traffic, noise, quarrels at home and work, disagreements with neighbors, encounters with incivility, and locking horns with customer service departments are just some examples of what psychologists term “daily hassles.” These hassles are technically defined as events, thoughts, or situations that produce negative feelings such as annoyance, agitation, anxiety, frustration, worry, or a general sense of irritation. Hassles are usually perceived as roadblocks to meeting specific goals. With this definition in mind, it is easy to see how the digital age has added a new dimension—a slow-walking smartphone shuffler might make you late for a meeting, or a loud cell-phone talker in your vicinity might distract you as you’re trying to finish writing a report.

Screen Culture and Nature Displacement

The ascent of screen culture has occurred in association with the decline in mindful engagement with nature. The benefits of being in green are being obscured by the powerful pull of the dopamine reward system and the information vortex. There is a personal loss here: we are becoming less aware of the mentally rejuvenating and cognitively restorative benefits of nature. There is also an environmental loss: a collective detachment is not in the interest of conservation. Although there is much talk about environmental awareness and “being green,” when it comes to being green in the true sense—connecting with nature and actually being in green in a mindful sense—our society is losing its way. Screen-based gadgets are luring us away from nature and all its benefits. It’s not possible to cultivate true concern and empathy for nature while being completely detached from it. True connectivity in any relationship, be it interpersonal or with elements of nature, serves to strengthen empathy and concern. Mostly, we stand up for what we know and what we have experienced. Yet, at a time when we need conservation efforts more than ever, when we need a little stress relief more than ever, we are turning our backs on nature.

The Fork in the Road—What Are We Losing and What Can We Gain?

……Researchers at the University of Rochester examined the effects of nature immersion on life aspirations. There are two general categories of life aspirations, intrinsic and extrinsic, both of which can influence important decisions, judgments, perceptions, and overall direction in life. Extrinsic aspirations are focused on goods, such as fame, money, and image. Intrinsic aspirations are those that support basic psychological needs, including personal growth, community, and intimacy. In short, intrinsic aspirations involve values that might be described as prosocial. In the study, participants viewed four photographic images of natural environments (and separately, human-made city scenes) and were asked to imagine themselves fully immersed in the environments (considering the potential sounds, smells, colors, textures) for about eight minutes. After this procedure, the subjects answered a series of questions designed to evaluate the degree to which they were psychologically immersed in the environment, as well as any effects on aspirations and altruism. Viewing the human-made city scenes predicted a higher value of extrinsic aspirations; it seems that the city view jacks up the desire for money, power, and fame—the self is prioritized. Those who viewed the city scenes were also less likely to share resources with others.

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