Everyone knows that Americans today are spending way too much time glued to their iPhones, laptops, and TV screens, but a new study has now revealed just how much our addiction to technology has gotten out of control.
This week, Nielsen released its 2018 Total Audience Report, which found that US adults spend an average of 11 (!!) hours per day consuming media in some form, whether it’s by listening to the radio, browsing the Internet, watching TV, or visiting apps. When you combine that number with the eight hours a night you’re supposed to get for sleep, it means that most of us are spending two/thirds of our daily time awake in our virtual lives instead of our real ones.
As would be expected, adults aged 18-34 are the largest consumers of media, spending 150 percent more time per day with TV-connected devices than those aged 50 to 64.
None of this is good news. Back in March, one study found that 39 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 and 36 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 49 admitted to being online “almost constantly.” This addiction to technology is viewed as one of the reasons that the happiness index of Americans are at a historic low, as well as the reason that those between the ages of 18 and 22 are quickly becoming the loneliest demographic in the U.S.
Our obsession with media is also hurting our relationships. One recent study found that “phubbing”—the act of ignoring someone while flipping through your phone—causes your bond with them to slowly deteriorate. Parents are giving their children tablets as a way of distracting them when they’re throwing a tantrum, leading them to feel ignored and act out later on. Netflix is killing our sex lives, and a disturbing recent study found that a shocking number of people even admit to checking their phones during sex.
All of this is affecting our health in terrible ways as well. Most of us are falling asleep while on our smartphones, which is messing up our sleep cycles, decreasing our longevity, increasing our risk of depression and bipolar depression, and even making us gain weight. Staring at screens all day is giving us “tech neck.” Online dating is not doing wonders for our mental health. And it’s worth remembering that watching too much TV can actually kill you.
It’s not a bad thing to make sure you’re tuned in to current events and to enjoy all of the great movies streaming services have to offer. But our obsession with technology is most likely the reason that mindfulness has become such a buzzword lately in the well-being community. How can you be “present,” if you’re always glued to your digital devices, constantly consuming media instead of living your life?
No one is asking you to move to Walden Pond. But it’s worth considering taking a digital detox or cutting things down a notch. Leave your phone at home and take a nice, long walk in which you actually notice the wind rustling through the trees and the life happening all around you. Use up your stored vacation days and don’t spring for an international plan. Set a cutoff time of 10 pm for all technology and meditate or read before bed instead.
Trust me: Your body and your mind will thank you for it.
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