Author’s note: This is a serious subject. The uptick of screen time over the past 18 months cannot be ignored. From infants to senior citizens, the usage/need for content consumption increased by over 30% on average in just over a year and a half. To put it in perspective, our ice caps have melted by 30% – In 50 years.
So this is serious.
My parents and I were driving down to a restaurant for dinner. We had to stop for some tasks at a couple shops to get some homely-chores sorted – typical stuff.
In the 1.5 hours I was outside the house, I encountered a few people.
- My father – Focussed on his YouTube premium account and listening to the news.
- My mother – Used her phone to Video call her sister for about 10 minutes.
- A medical store attendant – Was watching the t20 World Cup on Hotstar when I arrived at the counter. Heard my order and went into find my prescription having increased the volume of his phone so he could hear the live commentary
- The manager/owner of the medical store – Was focused on some kind of messaging app for the duration I was making my purchase
- The concierge at the restaurant – Was on (what I presume was) whatsapp closing bookings and making calls on a landline to take other reservations.
- A family of 4 people on the next table – The younger child was on his iPad. The parents were consulting the menu. The elder child was typing furiously on her phone – stressed…
- A group of friends (I presume) on the table next to the family – All of them playing a 4 person game on single smartphone screen.
- On the way back, our building’s guard – 1 wireless bud in his left ear, passively watching the match whilst he manages the cars’ parking situation near the lobby.
Systemic or incentivised?
Cheaper data plans coupled with easy access to content and social media have led to a constant feedback loop.
One realises that there aren’t just the digital natives and Zoomers who’re entrenched in the digital life. It’s everybody.
Mutation and expansion
Everybody from NFT marketplaces and blockchain start-ups to Facebook (or Meta) is obsessed with the future of the Metaverse i.e. a virtual world that one can interact with and spend time in.
Let’s be clear about one thing – Metaverses have always existed. Whether it is Vice City or San Andreas in the GTA video game franchise or managing your Farm in the infamous FarmVille. The only difference now is that we’ve reached a place in the growth of technology where 2 major checkpoints have been crossed:
- Digital assets have become mainstream – NFTs, digital land, cryptocurrencies and the integration with social media
- VR and AR have (finally) come of age.
Additionally, specifically on the NFT game side at least, metaverses might soon get interconnected. Like you would go from one country to another with a passport and visa, there is a time in the future where the same could be achieved from Facebook’s metaverse to Decentraland.
Another innovation that may affect internet addiction beyond metaverses will be the hard-sell of new social networks that will be always-on. With YouTube’s recent update of removing the Dislike button and Instagram hiding the total likes on some profiles, digital platforms are moving to increased time spent in consumption than interaction.
The math makes sense. The only people that interaction and engagement makes sense for is creators. For the platform, time is their biggest asset.
The more time you spend = The more ads you see = the more information they have about what you like and dislike.
Five things that might help with Internet addiction
- Educate yourself about the pros and cons of the level of screen time, constant gratification and addiction. The first step to managing balance is to know your status quo. Learn how much time you’re on the phone by using trackers that calculate your daily use and over time, reduce your use.
- Be experimental but not silly. With metaverses and other digital lures becoming mainstream, the primary goal is to find the right digital platform you want to learn, get entertained by or work in. Take your time – check out what’s out there.
- Create timelines for non-device activities: This is almost always the recommendation I give to peers who have trouble managing their device time. Instead of reducing your screen time, increase your outside time. Follow passions that are not digital in nature.
- Learn about how addiction works: Understanding what actually happens with your brain’s neurochemistry, we do need to pay heed to understanding addiction itself. Here’s a start: Internet Addiction – Online without end
- Be mindful: Seems preachy – but works. Being clear about your content consumption will give you perspective. Like with other addictions, realisation of the self can only come when you focus on what actually is changing in your mind based on how much you participate in the activity.
The goal of this piece was to shed some light on where internet addiction is, what may evolve it and how you, as a discerning user, can do know your boundaries. Everybody is different and everybody has their own limits.
The landscape for digital inclusion of ‘stuff’ is at breakneck speed. With Sotheby’s, McDonalds, Burger King and recently, NIKE getting into the sale of virtual goods and services, we’re reaching a mainstream where digital consumption will hit an all time high.
It’s for us to know how much we want to contribute to this world with our time.
P.S. We’re not going to be moving into a digital world. We’re already there.
Stay curious. stay secure.
See you next week!
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.