top of page

Time Poor, Tech Bloated


“New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It's all about how people choose to use it." -- David Wong

John Maynard Keynes, born in 1883 in the UK, was the foremost economist of his time. He saw the magic of technology from air travel, automobiles, electric refrigerators, air-conditioning units, neon lights, escalators, pop-up toasters, teabags, instant coffee, disposable razor blades, plastic wrap, zippers, and so much more. For Keynes, technology was an advancement in how people lived, so much so that in 1930 he proudly proclaimed that grandchildren of his generation would only work about three hours a day and only if they wanted to.

Is it just me, or is that a laughable thought? I don't know about you, but I don't work only three hours daily. The average full-time worker in the US puts in 8.53 hours per weekday and 5.89 hours per weekend. And that's for the average person, not to mention those who are slightly more crazy.

This illustrates that the assumed "purpose of technological progress was to make life easier and more leisurely," but most don't experience technology that way. Instead, our expectations are higher, our pace is more hectic, and our schedules overflow. However, this isn't technology's fault; this is a problem inside us.

Are You a Frog in the Pot?

Human beings are poor predictors of two key things that are important in using technology. First, we are poor predictors of what will make us happy long-term. We've all done this, "If I just had ______, I would be happy," but then you get whatever you filled that blank with, and you are happy for a while. But after a while, the happiness starts to wear off, and you think, "Well, if only I had _______, I would be happy again," and the cycle goes on and on and on.

The second thing we are terrible predictors of is the impact of changing norms. What I mean by this is that as technology and culture change around us, we adapt to it without stopping to think about how it affects our lives. We become like a frog placed in a pot of cool water who doesn't notice when the temperature starts to climb because it happens so gradually until it's too late. Technology has saved us time, but we didn't increase our leisure as John Maynard Keynes thought we would; we simply piled on more expectations, and whether we like it or not, it's slowly killing us.

Where is Your Attention?

"We adapt to continually improving circumstances, and therefore technological advances don't convert to less work or more leisure. Instead, they tend to lead to one of two things: (1) taking on more and more in less and less time or (2) finding new ways to fill our saved time."

As such, it's so essential that we intentionally choose how we spend our time. But as we've seen, we can't simply look at the norms around us and expect them to be good for us; instead, we need to create our own norms to help us thrive.

"Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master." -- Christian Louis Lange

What is Unchecked Technology Doing to You?

If technology is not harnessed and put in its proper place in our lives, the norms it creates for us will slowly destroy us by wearing out our willpower, preventing deep thought, reducing our ability to make decisions, and causing physical and psychological strain.

Research shows that exercising our will (making decisions) depletes our mental energy. Meaning that after a day of constantly deciding which phone calls, texts, emails, Zoom meetings, and notifications to respond to our wills get burnt out, which means we have less energy for making other decisions like how to spend time with our family, what healthy meal to make for dinner, etc.

Additionally, we are losing our ability to think deeply between social media reels, TikTok, and the snippets of information that we are bombarded with all day. Because we've designed our information to be processed in short bursts, our brains actually have less time to digest the information and store it in long-term memory, which means that our brains are unable to make connections with the information and "forge the understanding, creativity, and perspective that make us uniquely human."

Along the same lines, while we often praise those who can multi-task, research at Stanford University indicates that those who multi-task have difficulty determining and prioritizing what's important. So if you've ever found yourself spending hours just scrolling social media or watching funny cat videos, this is one of the reasons why you do it.

It can also cause several health issues, such as poor posture, strained muscles, insomnia, headaches, and addictive behaviors. "Most people report feelings of anxiety when separated from their smartphones." Studies also show when we are separated from our technology of choice, we experience withdrawal "symptoms such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, a sense of loss, and a diminishment of their extended self."

This week, consider the following questions:

  • In what way is technology consuming your time more than it saves you time?

  • How might your joy and productivity change if you regained control of that time?

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page