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How Technology Manipulates Your Attention

We spend more and more time in front of the screens of our smartphones, tablets and laptops. We work online, entertain ourselves online, communicate online, learn online... the list goes on. Not only our tasks at work but even our physical health, love lives and friendships are being digitalised to make us a lot more efficient and a little less human. Although we are all well aware that a Facebook chat will never replace catching up with a friend in person, we get sucked into all things digital with great enthusiasm. At what point does it all become too much? Have we already crossed the line already?

Digitalised unhappiness Technology has an enormous power in steering our thinking. Just imagine, you turn on your Facebook newsfeed and suddenly you’re thinking about your friend’s last vacation, wondering why you never visited Asia and damning your job for not allowing you to travel as much as you’d like. Were these thoughts in your head before you saw your friend’s post? No, not really. It wasn’t your choice to start comparing the low point of your working day with what is most likely the high point of your friend's month.

Interestingly enough, while social media increase the feelings of connection, they do not reduce feelings of disconnection. It’s not your fault you get a warm feeling inside every time a “like” notification pops up. The platforms are designed to make you have those feelings. They appeal to your most basic instincts and there is not much you can do to fight it.

Is it a free world? You may think you live in a free society complemented by freedom of speech protected by democracy. The truth is we find it easier not to think, not to make decisions and we send our workload off to programmes, which ultimately do a better job than we would do anyway. You are told (sorry, I meant recommended...) what to buy, which apps to download and how to communicate. How often do you take a minute in a day to question it all?

Know when you're being sold (to) Technology is wonderful and I am by no means belittling the life-changing benefits it has had on our lives. The one and only message here is be aware. Be aware of how things work and why they work that way. Get curious and don’t be afraid to question everything. You may have already heard this phrase- if you’re not paying for a product, the product is you. Being handed solutions to all of our problems on a silver platter is comfortable to say the least, but it diminishes our ability to evaluate options and to a certain extent takes away our decision-making power.

It's (still) in your control You nonetheless have the power to decide how you want to live your life. You (still) have the power to question. To say no. Try it once in a while, you’ll see it is much harder than you would have thought. In the past couple of months, I’ve been fortunate enough to come across a lot of new platforms and applications, which are trying to make this world a better place #CheesyButTrue. They have a meaning behind the code and have the power to make an impact in the real world. However, it is also these apps that are yet again prolonging our screen time.

The key is finding a middle pathway. Knowing you are consciously able to put down your phone and have a conversation in the reality of the tangible, physical world. We don’t need to be online 24/7. We were not designed to be online 24/7. It's time to admit we're human and give technology a break from time to time, so that we can reconnect with the world around us.


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