Have a look around you right now. How many people are staring into an electronic screen? Scary isn’t it? Even if you’re not at work, chances are most people have their faces glued to a screen. No matter that they’re walking down the street, driving their cars or dining out with friends. For better or worse, people everywhere are hooked on the new opiate of the masses – the bright screens of their smart phones or tablets.
Both here at home in the US and on recent swings through Asia, Europe, India and Canada the immense pull of these attention sucking vortexes has jolted me. I’ve spotted screenbots on vacation in tropical paradises oblivious to family members, others and the splendor around them. All transfixed by the sensual allure of the screen in their hands. Screenbots hanging together in pods in bars, restaurants, and parks riveted to their handhelds. Screenbots in meetings, at conferences and planning sessions…screenbots e v e r y w h e r e.
Screenbot Beginnings: Smart Phones Go Viral.
Like any good and proper global pandemic, this one spread quickly. It all began with the first smart phone in the US which swiftly became sexy hot de rigueur. Heretofore normal human beings were quickly overcome with the intoxicating sensuality of their devices. Soon they and other screenbot brethren could be spotted bumping into each other on the streets and causing traffic chaos all over the globe. Business was hit hard too. Inattention at meetings skyrocketed and productivity went down.
I myself am a recovering screenbot, having once too been a bright screen junkie. I recently wrote about this in the Tyranny of Your (Too) Smart Phone. I bravely and gradually reduced my exposure, and soon rediscovered a richness of the world I had lost touch with. It has been an incredibly liberating experience which is precisely why I find this whole pandemic so concerning. Not only do screenbots miss out on the real story around them, they can come across as distant, dismissive and disrespectful in meetings…and in life. They also risk harm to themselves.
Costs and Risks of Screenbots
There are many costs, both personal and to your business from the rise of screenbots. Here are a few:
- Sleep disruption: As if it weren’t bad enough that most people already are getting less sleep than needed for optimal health and functioning, bright screens make this bad situation even worse. Research has demonstrated that nighttime light exposure from your ipad or smartphone suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin tells your body that it is night, helping to make you sleepy and once asleep, stay asleep.
- Damage to your body: Melatonin suppression not only creates havoc with your sleep but also your body. Studies have linked it to increased risk of cancer, impaired immune system function, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Oi. Time to minimize the bright screen at night.
- Lost productivity at work: How many times have you been to a meeting where someone had their face glued to handheld screen and they seemingly missed much of what was discussed? Thought so. I’ve heard horror stories of people in meetings, including the boss, who pay little attention to anything other than their handheld. This means that material must be reviewed again and again and again. Talk about inefficiency…and disrespect.
- Harm to relationships: Whether at work or at home, your success and happiness relies on your ability to develop relationships with others. If you have your face in a screen all the time you miss out on key opportunities to explore and get to know better those around you, whether they be your spouse, child, colleague or client.
How to Escape from Being a Screenbot
A gradual withdrawl from your sexy device is likely your most successful approach. Here are some tips:
- No computer, video games, cel phone or tablet before bed: begin this by starting with none of these offenders 30 minutes prior to bed. Gradually increase this time period to 2 hours. Think of how much fun you’ll have getting to know your spouse or an actual paperback again.
- Make sure devices are on airplane mode during important meetings. Even better, either have people leave them behind or have them place them on the table, face down.
- Try not using your device for small amounts of time when out and about or with friends and family. Start with small increments of 10-15 minutes and gradually build from there. You will be amazed at the richness of the people and world around you when you are not glued to a screen.
What do you think? Do the risks of having your face in a screen most of the time outweigh the benefits of being more present in the world?