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Because checking smartphone social media & e-mail is so addictive, research has identified a recent significant change in how smartphones are used.  Students surveyed report that many constantly clutch their smartphones in their hand, do not carry them in pocket or purse, & sleep with them with notifications in one way or another turned on. Indeed, many smartphone users no longer can bear waiting for the automatic notification of “incoming” but, before being prompted, check on their own several times an hour to avoid potentially missing something. Not surprisingly, both productivity & mental health suffer as a result.

An episode of a “tech, trends, & fresh ideas” radio programme provides a crucial perspective on our evolving use of communications technology that makes lives ever-more crammed with communication & stress. If followers of this blog have 54 minutes free, time listening to the entire CBC Spark Episode 258 would be well spent in considering workable solutions to rampant hyper-communication.

This Spark episode’s first interview “Notification Vacation” notes research psychologist Dr. Larry Rosen’s findings that the avalanche of information on our communication devices producing a “relentless barrage of notifications can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health.”

Solution?  Simply learn to live with notification functions turned off!

The next interview “Procrastination & Reminders” speaks to the dangers of depending on electronic reminders to organise our task saturated lives.  Behavioural economist Keith Marzilli Ericson found evidence that this technology has unintended negative consequences. Too often notifications make it easier to procrastinate!

Solution? Mindfully time reminders rather close to when you are most likely to act, or use a written paper note in the physical space where your response must take place.

The following piece “Digital Sabbatical” interviews political journalist/blogger David Roberts who confessed regularly engaging on the Internet until 3:00 a.m & at one time he actually hit Twitter’s daily tweet limit of 1,000 messages!

Solution? Cut off expression in social media, work e-mail, RSS feeds, & go “quiet”–at least for the weekend. Schedule regular breaks from connectivity to give your mind a break–“by brute force if necessary.” As recommended above, turn off all “push notifications.”

The final CBC Spark segment discusses the 2014 book The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We have Lost in A World of Constant Connection with author Michael Harris. Harris maintains that, amid all the rapidly increasing change characterising modern life, we are experiencing what future generations will find hardest to grasp. That is the “end of absence”—the loss of the lack of connectedness. When you carry a smartphone, the generative daydreaming silences in our lives are crowded out and there is no true “free time.” Today’s rarest commodity actually is the chance to be alone with your own thoughts.

Solution? Free your true creativity in solitude, absent IT.

If 54 minutes of focussed listening to the medium of radio is out of the question for any followers, the individual interviews outlined above can be listened to separately at the following links:

In sum, know that smartphones can be used in much wiser ways to reduce the task saturation & resulting stress engendered by IT.

Reference Cited

Harris, Michael. 2014. The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We Have Lost in a World of Constant Connection. Toronto: HarperCollins [Penguin Random House in USA].

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