Get Unplugged: The Why & the What
The power of choice, of having options, is addictive. Just look to any of the countless articles about how millennials are all riddled with outlandish expectations of choice.
We’ve grown up with endless information at our fingertips (literally), and now expect the world to be our oyster as we morph into so-called adulthood.
From designing a freelance career to avoid working for "the man", to negotiating a way to travel the world while still paying the bills, to expecting food choices left and right delivered to our door without leaving our couch in twenty minutes or less, the modern human does expect a lot. And in turn, the more we’re exposed to choice, the more those options become addictive.
I wrote a bit about the addictive nature of information seeking in my post on the social media detox I’m currently undergoing. In short, research has seen that social media affects our dopamine levels. Dopamine causes seeking behavior, triggering us to want, desire, search, and increasing our general level of arousal and our goal-directed behavior. Dopamine serves to drive us to search for resources to meet our basic needs – think food, water and shelter – but these days it can also push seeking behavior online.
Have you ever gotten online – whether on your phone, tablet, or computer – to Google one quick thing only to resurface 30 minutes, maybe even hours later? I call these internet K-holes, which will make sense to anyone who has ever seen what someone on too much Ketamine looks like. We’ve become addicted to the availability of information, and the chemicals in our brains are steering us along that path.
To put into perspective just how addicted we are, I created my own internet K-hole courtesy of Pew Research. Some numbers I dug up:
- 46 percent of Americans categorize their smartphones as something they “couldn’t live without.”
- Nearly half of 18-29 year olds use their smartphones to avoid others around them, and nearly one third (32 percent) of users 30-49 do the same.
- 93 percent of smartphone users 18-29 use their phones to avoid boredom, while 82 percent of users age 30-49 do.
- 89 percent of cellphone users say they used their phone during their most recent social encounter.
- While nearly 80 percent of users reported feeling productive or happy because of their phones, 57 percent said their phones make them feel distracted and 36 percent felt frustrated because of their phones.
So we use our phones to avoid human connection, allow them to make us feel sometimes happy and productive, sometimes distracted and frustrated, and look at them as something we can’t live without.
This data pulls largely from cellphones, sure, but it’s indicative of a bigger addiction to information, as well as a fear of boredom and the unknown. Just think of what might happen if you unplug during the first week of 2016. You may meet a new friend during your hungover coffee run on New Year’s Day, or maybe you’ll be struck with inspiration and kick off the year with a killer poem/painting/photo/outfit/other creative thing. Or maybe you’ll just finally finish that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table throughout 2015, and that’s pretty badass too.
So this New Year, maybe swap your Instagram filters for a disposable camera, and leave the laptops, cell phones, and tablets tucked away. After all, Netflix will still be there tomorrow to nurse you through your resolutions hangovers.