Reevaluating my Relationship with Technology

My phone next to the painting that has been my wallpaper for the past 4 years.

When I was on Birthright, the coming-of-age free trip to Israel, our trip leader spoke a lot about what Egypt means to the Jewish people. It’s a symbol of enslavement. He also equated it to our phones. This passover, as my friend Simon led our Seder and spoke of the Jewish people’s escape from Egypt, I remembered this conversation and thought a lot about my personal “Egypt”. This has been a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately.

A few weeks ago, I went to a Purposeful event about “Being with Your Self in the Age of Distraction”. The speakers perfectly articulated my own qualms with technology and helped me identify my rather adverse habits. Although many of these things are obvious, it was great to be in a room with people who are also recognizing the problem. Of course I’ve previously when hanging out with friends, not being present because we are all looking at our own respective tiny black boxes. Following the insights that were shared at the event, I’m hopeful that I’ll be more conscious of my consumption. I wanted to share some of these insights as well as takeaways.

THE INSIGHTS

1) Attention Economy + Social Media

If you’re not familiar with attention economics, it is about treating a consumer’s attention as a resource. In marketing, awareness of a product/service is seen as the first step in the marketing funnel — deeming attention super important. (Read this to find out more…TLDR version here.) With more products on the market than ever before, the fight for our attention is fierce.

Social media marketing is powered by the attention economy. You may have heard that the reason that Facebook is free is because you are the product…and it’s true. Social media platforms are selling our attention (and data, but we can talk about that some other time). How do I quantify “our attention”? Well, it’s the space in our feed that reaches our eyeballs, that brings information to our brains, that helps us decide where we spend the money in our bank account.

Attention is an evolutionary trait, but we are surrendering it to social media. These platforms keep us in the feed so that we don’t spend time elsewhere. Interestingly enough, in the Venture Capital world, the companies that get funded are those that come up with ways to keep you in the feed. It’s about who can hold your attention the longest. However those that are trying to help us be more mindful of our usage get, like Siempo, can’t break through.

2) Precious Resources

Attention and time are the most precious resources we have in life. We can’t get extra time in life, so we should ask ourselves how we intend to spend it. Oftentimes rather than being present and in the moment, we are putting our attention on our phones, scrolling.

When we wake up and plan our days, none of us designate 2.5 hours to using social media; however, according to Hootsuite that’s exactly what we do. It’s become a mindless, almost involuntary, part of our daily routine. That’s precious time we can be spending on more fulfilling activities.

3) Connecting with yourself

Our social media obsession doesn’t just affect us mentally, it also causes us to disconnect from our bodies. We need to try to be more mindful of this disconnect, and work to check in with ourselves. A great way to reconnect with our bodies is meditation. Meditation is one of the best, time honored ways, to connect with yourself.

It isn’t just our eyeballs that are constantly engaged. With our headphones constantly blasting music, we are missing out on the functionality of our ears. They are more than just the tiny holes where we stick our earbuds — our ears consist of the entirety of the spiral shape. By blocking them all the time we are getting in the way of experiencing all the vibrations of everyday life. Experiencing parts of our day in silence, with no background soundtrack, allows us to pay attention to what is around us, and enables us to connect with ourselves, because ultimately we are nature and nature is all around us. Sure, as New Yorkers, nature takes a vastly different form, but all those sounds that we experience comprises our “nature”.

4) Don’t go to bed tired and wired

Don’t go to bed tired and wired because it diminishes the quality of your sleep. Take some time to wind down and get ready for bed.

When waking up, try not to use your phone as an alarm clock. It’s detrimental to your mental health to reach for your phone as soon as you open your eyes. You wake up to all the notifications and things that are happening in the social media realm. Before you even have time to think, you start the day with thoughts that are not your own.

5) How Social Media makes us Feel

How do all those social media interactions throughout your day make you feel? You see all these things you want to be doing, and possibly feel the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) for not being there. I suppose we’ve all had that moment when we see our friends having a good time, while we decided to stay in, and end up wishing we were there. Hotels.com made a hilarious ad about hate-liking people’s travel photos because you actually want to be the person experiencing those places.

What is the quality of all those interactions? We’ve boiled down expressing sentiments to friends and acquaintances using nothing more than emojis. You just got accepted into law school — a feat you’ve been working so hard to achieve? I’m sure that this “👍” really sums up everything I would like to say to you. We are now talking to significantly more people, thanks to the advent of technologies. The conversations we are having, however, end up having less substance.

MY TAKEAWAYS

Professional

I work in the advertising industry selling analytics to brands, agencies, and publishers (shameless plug for Nudge in case you’re interested in buying). Hearing about all the problems associated with technology and specifically the way that social media sucks you in, I experience some cognitive dissonance. On one hand, I work in this industry because I love it. I truly believe in content’s ability to drive business results. I get very excited when I see good advertising because I appreciate the creativity that goes into it. On the other hand, I hate the often accurate perception of how malicious advertising can be. Words like deception and manipulation come to mind. Now I have a heavier burden thinking about the adverse impact of all that content creation.

Our platform measures the performance of content. For that reason I’m interacting with content daily, identifying compelling pieces and forever excited by good executions. In light of the Purposeful talk, I genuinely believe that marketers need to keep their audience in mind. Because people are bombarded by so much in their social feeds, we should make content that brings value to those consuming it. In fact, here at Nudge, we’re seeing that content that has higher attention drives higher conversions. If you’re interested in learning more about the value that attention brings, read my CEO’s twitter thread on attention. I strongly urge you to consider this in your content creation.

Personal

1)The phone ←-> sleep connection really stood out to me. My phone is the last thing I see before I go to sleep and the first thing I reach for as I wake up. I realized that I don’t give myself time to wake up and be with myself. I’m instantly sucked into my phone. To be more conscious of my consumption, I bought an alarm clock and replaced my phone with a journal on my night stand. really hope to use it, leaving my phone a bit further than arms length. I also started reading for 30 minutes before bed, so my phone isn’t the last thing I see every night.

2) Instagram is by far my most time consuming social platform. I spend a lot of time scrolling… I’ve noticed that sometimes I’ll scroll my feed just to find my friends’ content, but am bombarded with memes and celebrities who post multiple times a day. I made a separate Instagram for all that content and it made a huge difference: my time on Instagram has been cut in three and I barely even check the alternative account I created.

3) I’ve been trying to connect with my body more. That calls for weekly yoga classes that help me clear my mind. I’ve also been going to a few meditation classes offered at my coworking space, Nomadworks. It’s hard to get in the right mindset, but with more practice, I’ll get there. I was very intrigued by the insight about being more in tune with my environment by listening more. My headphones are always in — whether I’m running an errand, sitting on the subway, or at work. Music helps me work by blocking out the rest of the world. According to Spotify I’ve listened to 68,000+ minutes of music last year. I never realized that it takes away my ability to connect with my environment. Now when I’m walking around I try to take my headphones out and just take in my surroundings.

Being mindful of my environment

I hope you enjoyed the insights I’ve shared and my personal takeaways. If you have any further thoughts on the subject or tips that I should consider I’d love to hear them!