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Category: Distraction

3 Key Insights on the Psychology of Technology from Author & Researcher Dr. Larry Rosen

If you’ve ever been concerned about the psychological impact of our society’s increasing obsession with technology, Dr. Larry Rosen has studied it from every angle over the past 30 years.

You might be wondering what there was to study back in the late 1980s! Even then, as computers made their way into homes and workplaces, Rosen began to recognize and study signs of “technophobia.” In fact, his first publication TechnoStress: Coping with Technology @Work @Home @Play was published in 1997. 

But with the exponential growth of personal technology like iPhones and social media, fear has been replaced with anxiety and distraction due to our constant connectedness. That’s been the focus of his research over the past decade. 

Robert Plotkin had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Rosen on episode 23 of the Technology for Mindfulness podcast about what he’s learned from his years of research and how the fields of neuroscience and psychology can help us engage with technology in a healthy way. Here are three key insights we gleaned from their conversation on the psychology of technology.

How Our Tech-Focused Society Affects Us Psychologically

Dr. Rosen pointed out that there’s been a dramatic shift in the way we view the world over the past ten years. We’ve experienced three game-changers:

  • The invention of the internet, which gave us the power to search for anything
  • The development of smartphones, which allowed us to carry our computers everywhere
  • The introduction of social media, which changed how we communicate

So, what are some of the issues with these advancements from a psychological point of view?

Diminished Sense of Self

The common phrase, “pics or it didn’t happen,” implies that experiences aren’t valid unless they’ve been documented and shared. So, we hold up the phone and record, unconsciously filtering our experiences to make them more palatable to our “audience.” Then, we wait to see the response. Our sense of self becomes dependent on the opinions of others.

Social Comparison

While likes and comments can give us a little dopamine rush, they can also give us pain. Everyone knows on some level that people are only sharing their best versions online – the photoshopped picture, the fancy vacation, the new car. But sometimes we forget. Constantly scrolling through the best parts of people’s lives can create disappointment and sadness. Social comparison has always been around, but social media has magnified its effects.

Eroding Interpersonal Skills

As humans, our goal is to connect with others. That’s why social media has such a strong pull. But prior to things like Friendster and Myspace, these connections occurred one-on-one. Now you’re talking one-to-many, and it changes the dynamic.

As adults, we begin to lose some of our social graces, which causes unnecessary conflict and miscommunication. But it’s especially hard for children. They’re learning to communicate through technology at the same time they should be gaining experience with body language and the nuances of conversation. We’ve yet to see the implications of this long term.

Impaired Introspection

In our world of distraction, it becomes harder to process our thoughts as deeply. We’ve replaced every moment of boredom with our phones, which leaves no space for making connections, brainstorming, or inspiration. That’s part of what makes us human. It’s the spark of creativity. Dr. Rosen says, “You can’t process at a light level and expect to live a fulfilling life.”

But a discussion about the psychology of technology wouldn’t be complete without mentioning FOMO (fear of missing out). This is a real problem that many people experience, even though the term is used rather casually. Let’s talk about that in more depth.

psychology of technology
When we document and share pieces of our life on social media, our sense of self becomes tied to others’ reactions and comments. We also lose the ability to stay in the moment.

What Neuroscience Tells Us About FOMO

Though the acronym AOMO is not as hip or memorable, Dr. Rosen emphasizes that FOMO is really a form of anxiety. So, what causes FOMO?

The Roots of FOMO

Every notification could be someone talking about you. Someone needs you or has “approved” of something you did or said. From the brain’s perspective, this is tantalizing. Even when you know better, and you don’t check it, your brain is still thinking about it. The distraction is still there.

The more this anxiety creeps up, the more you want to check your phone to relieve it. And with the constant stream of information, you never feel caught up. It’s a feedback loop you can’t escape.

Increasing FOMO

In a recent study, Dr. Rosen saw signs that our anxiety is growing. In a recent study, he added an app on his students’ phones to see how often they unlocked their phone and how long they used it each day. He noted these were working adults, mostly in their late 20s.

  • In 2016, they unlocked their phones 56 times a day for 220 minutes total for about 3 minutes at a time.
  • In 2017, the unlocked their phones 50 times a day, 262 minutes total for about 5 minutes at a time.

He theorized that with the growth of new social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, students had more websites to monitor. More notifications to check. And, as a result, more opportunities for FOMO.

A Practical Exercise

To break the habit of constantly checking your phone, Dr. Rosen feels that “technology fasts” don’t work very well because they’re not getting to the root of the problem. When you come back from your fast, you’re faced with a mountain of notifications and the process begins again.

Instead, he recommends a behavioral approach. Set a timer for a period of time that feels comfortable (like 15 minutes). When the alarm goes off, allow yourself to check your phone for two minutes. The goal is to slowly extend the period of time between checks.

Rather than allowing your brain’s biochemistry to unconsciously guide you, use the alarm. You’re essentially deciding in advance when to be “mindless.”

He cautions that it will likely feel harder before it gets better. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. You have to fight through your anxiety and relearn delayed gratification. 

psychology of technology
Why is it so hard to resist checking our phone? It’s really a form of anxiety that you’re “missing out” on something important, or that someone is talking about you.

How to Restore Balance Between Our “Real” and “Digital” Lives

Dr. Rosen likens our relationship to technology to a pendulum. We’re still swinging upward, infatuated with the newness and wonder of all the things technology can do. After all, it happened so fast. But there will come a time when we turn back to a more balanced way of communicating.

His book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, offers practical strategies, backed by science, to fight distraction. For those who are ready, the methods might seem surprising in their simplicity. He suggests exercise, spending time in nature, and mindfulness meditation. In other words, time-tested practices for greater focus and productivity. Just ten minutes a day can help your brain slow down and resist instant gratification, even the allure of a red notification button.

Our experiential course Tap into Mindfulness is an excellent way to get started. It’s a transformational four-week audio course with workbooks to help you on the path to mindful interaction with technology. Our founder, Robert Plotkin, developed the exercises to specifically address the anxiety (or FOMO) associated with smartphones.

Want to learn more about the Psychology of Technology?

Dr. Rosen is a prolific researcher and writer. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Rosen and his colleagues have examined reactions to technology among more than 70,000 people in the United States and in 22 other countries. He has written seven books about the psychology of technology and writes a column for the newspaper The National Psychologist and regular blog posts for the magazine Psychology Today and the Huffington Post. For more:

How to Use Multiple Desktops to Maximize Focus

Are you one of those people with 30 tabs open at any given time?

Do you find yourself checking Instagram or absent-mindedly responding to someone on Whatsapp when you should be working?

Don’t worry, we all do it.

As soon as you hear the ping of a notification, it’s incredibly easy to wander off and lose valuable time during your day.

But what if you could remove all those attention suckers when you’re trying to do your best work? And easily switch back when it’s time to communicate or play?

It’s possible — and easy to do with multiple desktops.

Learn what they are, why they’re so helpful, and how to set them up for yourself in a way that maximizes not only productivity but focus as well. Continue reading How to Use Multiple Desktops to Maximize Focus

How to Manage Your Digital Environment – 6 Practical Ideas from Pete Dunlap

The concept of mindful technology is edging its way into the mainstream as more and more people want to break free of unhealthy digital habits.

Pete Dunlap, Founder of Digital Detangler, is poised to help with this uniquely modern problem. He empowers individuals, schools, and businesses to transform their digital environments for greater well-being.

Robert Plotkin recently interviewed Pete on the Technology for Mindfulness podcast to learn how he became the Digital Detangler and what individuals can do to take control of their own technology use. Continue reading How to Manage Your Digital Environment – 6 Practical Ideas from Pete Dunlap

How to Manage Your Technology Notifications for a Mindful Workday

You might think mindfulness at work is impossible these days. With constant connectivity comes constant interruptions, right? But it doesn’t have to be that way. Many of us never stop to consider that we can control our notifications, settings, and reminders. Sure, you might change a few things when you get a new phone or download an app. But when was the last time you thought critically about whether they’re really working for you? In this post, we’ll talk about how you can create a work environment that’s conducive to mindfulness. That includes easy tips, smart tools, and helpful resources to move you from frazzled to calm. Your coworkers will be asking for your secret, so be sure to share! Continue reading How to Manage Your Technology Notifications for a Mindful Workday

10 Mindfulness-Based Tools to Reduce Distractions and Improve Your Focus

It’s a daily struggle.

You sit down at your computer, ready to tackle your day. And then it happens.

A notification pops up – you’ve got three new emails. Before you can open them, there’s an instant message on the bottom of your screen.

Then you hear your phone ping and think, “Is that the sound of a calendar reminder or just a reply on my social media post? I’d better check before I start working…” And so it goes.

Sound familiar?

In today’s notification-obsessed world, it’s harder than ever to focus. Distractions like these can really add up.

Not only do you lose time reacting, but it also takes time to refocus. In fact, according to a study from the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after being interrupted.

Fortunately, technology doesn’t always have to be a distraction– it can also be a tool to help you focus. Continue reading 10 Mindfulness-Based Tools to Reduce Distractions and Improve Your Focus

Social Media: Taking a Break

For many of us, the holidays are a time when we spend precious connected moments with our loved ones. We may also engage in sacred rituals associated with these holidays. Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays — or even if you don’t celebrate them specifically — this may well be one of the few times during the year when you can enjoy the presence of your family and friends in person and celebrate your relationships together. Continue reading Social Media: Taking a Break

Positive Affirmations Around Social Media Reactions


Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are designed not only to enable but encourage people to provide feedback about content posted by others. This might take the form of a like, a simple thumbs up or down, text, or something more sophisticated like a text or video response.

If you’ve ever posted content online, then you know just how enticing it can be to check how many people have liked what you’ve posted.

Continue reading Positive Affirmations Around Social Media Reactions

Let’s Start Planning for Meetings as if There’s No Internet


For those of you who are old enough to remember what it was like to attend a meeting before the internet, the only opportunity to speak to that person was at the scheduled appointment.

I remember when I started working as a lawyer and I was going to meet with a client. What would I do? I would prepare!

Continue reading Let’s Start Planning for Meetings as if There’s No Internet

Positive, Negative and Neutral Posting on Social Media


We all know that the image people portray of themselves on social media is highly selective and curated. People often post only the information that paints them in a positive light and makes them seem as interesting as possible. As a result, their social media lives don’t always reflect their full reality.

Continue reading Positive, Negative and Neutral Posting on Social Media

Turn Off Autoplay for Videos


Do you ever find yourself binge-watching on YouTube, Netflix, or any other site/app on which you view videos? It’s so easy to get lost in the content and then wonder where the time went.

To minimize this issue, turn off autoplay so that when you’re done watching one video, the next one doesn’t start automatically.

Continue reading Turn Off Autoplay for Videos

Responding, Not Reacting to Your Smartphone

Have you ever watched a tennis sequence in which a player serves and the receiver runs in reaction to the serve and then hits the ball back off balance? Throughout the exchange, the server stands firm and is seemingly dictating where and when the receiver moves. 

Do you ever feel like that with your smartphone? Are you the receiver and is your smartphone the server? Continue reading Responding, Not Reacting to Your Smartphone

You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do


Since I write and teach about using technology mindfully, many people assume that I’m somehow naturally gifted at that practice.  They believe I’m always focused at work and never struggle with distractions when I should be doing something more productive.

In fact, when I tell people about my work in this field, they get embarrassed and think I will look down on them because of how poorly or distractedly they use technology. Continue reading You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do

Practice “Not Even One”


On this blog, we’ve shared many tips on the following topics:

  • How to use technology more mindfully.
  • How to exercise more control over how and when you use technology in order to be more productive, focused, and creative.
  • How to enable your use of technology to be more aligned with your intentions and goals.

This article is about what to do when none of the suggestions seem to work.

Continue reading Practice “Not Even One”

How to Manage the Pull of Your Smartphone

Do you ever feel like your smartphone is calling to you even when it’s just sitting in your pocket not doing anything? When your phone beeps, vibrates, or buzzes, do you ask yourself, “Why is my phone doing this to me?!?”

Continue reading How to Manage the Pull of Your Smartphone

The Case For Adding “Call Me” Back To Your Vocabulary

When you pick up your phone, how often are you using it to actually do what itthe-case-for-adding-call-me-back-to-your-vocabulary was first intended for? How often are you actually talking on the phone? And I don’t mean talking via text, or email, or some other form of digital communication. I mean actually talking. Picking up the phone and calling someone.

If you’re like most people today, your answer is probably something like “very rarely.”
Continue reading The Case For Adding “Call Me” Back To Your Vocabulary

How Be Happier & More Productive at Work with Simple Mindfulness Practices

Work is a place that we can easily feel stressed and overwhelmed. Maybe you How be Happier More Productive at Work This Weekhave multiple projects going at the same time or an impossibly short deadline that your boss wants you to meet. It’s happened to all of us at one point! The key to keeping calm under all this stress? Mindfulness.

When a workplace promotes mindfulness a few changes begin to happen. The entire company culture changes. The workplace begins to attract (and keep) the best employees. And performance within the company improves!

Continue reading How Be Happier & More Productive at Work with Simple Mindfulness Practices

Track Your Screen Time with Moment

How much time do you spend on your phone each day? I bet it’s probably more track-your-screen-time-with-momentthan you’d expect! According to a new study, U.S. consumers spend an average of 5 hours per day on their phones. That means that about ⅓ of your time awake is spent staring at a phone screen. If you ask me, that’s a lot of time wasted. And nearly 20% of that time is being spent on Facebook—FOMO, anyone?

Continue reading Track Your Screen Time with Moment

Study: Facebook is Might be the Reason You’re Unhappy

I’ve talked before about how technology is taking over, about how many times Study: Facebook is Might be the Reason You’re Unhappywe’re “accidentally” sucked into our phones. We’re checking our social media accounts, multiple times a day for no other reason that the fear of missing out (FOMO).

Continue reading Study: Facebook is Might be the Reason You’re Unhappy

Is Your Time Well Spent?

I know I’ve talked about this so many times before, but let me say it again for is-your-time-well-spentthose of you that are new to the blog or new to mindfulness: technology is taking over our minds.

Whether we realize it or not it’s happening. And a movement that goes by the name of Time Well Spent it looking that help change that! Fighting back against digital distraction. Asking technology companies to create app designs that “empower us and reduce pollution to our attention.”

Continue reading Is Your Time Well Spent?

Podcast Episode #02: Interview with Maggie Jackson, Author of Distracted

maggie-jackson-smallWe’ve just posted the latest episode of the Technology for Mindfulness Podcast, where author Maggie Jackson joins host Robert Plotkin for a discussion about how technology can distract us and what we can do about it. Jackson is an award-winning author and former Boston Globe columnist known for her penetrating coverage of social issues, especially technology’s impact on humanity. Her essays and articles have appeared in publications worldwide, including the The New York Times, Business Week, Utne, and on National Public Radio. Her acclaimed book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, jumpstarted our global conversation on the steep costs of fragmenting our attention. Jackson’s first book, What’s Happening to Home? Balancing Work, Life and Refuge in the Information Age, examined the loss of home as a refuge. Find more info on Maggie Jackson at maggie-jackson.com.

Continue reading Podcast Episode #02: Interview with Maggie Jackson, Author of Distracted

Addicted to Your Phone? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions When You Reach For Your Smartphone

You’re about to start cooking dinner when you have a question about the ask-yourself-these-5-questions-when-you-reach-for-your-phonerecipe… what can you substitute for tarragon? So you pull out your phone to type your question into Google. But what happens first? You see a new text message, notifications from 3 different apps… By the time you’ve finished checking everything out you’ve completely forgotten why you originally grabbed your phone in the first place.

Does that sound like something that’s happened to you? It’s probably happened to most of us!

Continue reading Addicted to Your Phone? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions When You Reach For Your Smartphone

Meditate to Calm your Political Anger and Learn to Accept Trump

No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, if you’re like most people, you’re meditate-to-calm-your-political-anger-and-learn-to-accept-trumpprobably feeling angered or even outraged by the outcome of the latest election. Either you’re upset about who has been chosen to run your country, or all the people that are upset are angering you. Either way, no one is very happy. Not even Donald Trump has been able to “enjoy” his presidency win with so much negativity going around. So how can we find a little bit of calm and rationalization at a time when tension and emotions are so high? My answer: meditation.

Continue reading Meditate to Calm your Political Anger and Learn to Accept Trump

Increase Your Productivity Every Day with Deep Work

We all have had those times when we’re feeling a little crunched for time, we Increase Your Productivity Everyday with Deep Workhave so much to do, but so little time… but what if someone told you that you could get more done in less time? That would be impossible right? Not according to Cal Newport’s idea of “deep work.”

Continue reading Increase Your Productivity Every Day with Deep Work

Digital Distraction is Changing Our Ever-Evolving Minds

Distraction isn’t something new, throughout history humans have always been Digital Distraction is Changing Our Ever-Evolving Mindsfaced with distraction, but today it seems as though distraction has become a bigger issue. But why is that? A large part of it is due to technology, something that’s supposed to make our lives easier—and often times succeeds—also has the ability to make life harder by being such a huge distractor in our everyday lives.

When a notification pops up on your phone (a feature that’s supposed to be helpful) while you’re in the middle of an important task, or even in the middle of a family dinner, do you check it? If you’re like most people, then the answer is probably yes, even if for just a moment.

Continue reading Digital Distraction is Changing Our Ever-Evolving Minds

Take a Break to Stay Focused

stay foucsed

The workaholics among us (I can count myself in that group too much of the time) often feel that taking a break is a sign of weakness, or at least will reduce our productivity.  In reality, and perhaps counter intuitively, taking breaks can help you to rejuvenate and regain your focus, and thereby increase your overall effectiveness and productivity, whether the work you are doing is physical, mental, or a combination of both.

Continue reading Take a Break to Stay Focused

Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

I can’t count how many times I have heard the following responses to a complaint about how technology can distract us:

  • “You can’t turn back the clock.”
  • “If you find it distracting, just turn it off.”
  • “It’s the price we pay for the benefits of technology.”

Continue reading Technological Distractions are a Bug, Not a Feature

Make Each Evening Worth Remembering

 

Make Each Evening Worth Remembering

Morning rituals are an important part of many people’s daily routines, but have you ever thought about evening rituals? Evening rituals can help to put us in a better, happier place at the end of the day and allow us to have a positive memory of the day.

Continue reading Make Each Evening Worth Remembering

The Third Theory of Distraction: Is There a Solution?

The Third Theory of Distraction: Is There a Solution?

In our previous post Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?, we talked about the two oldest and biggest theories of distraction: spiritual and material distraction. But there’s a new theory of distraction that’s been brought to light by Matthew Crawford in his new book “The World Beyond Your Head: Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.”

Continue reading The Third Theory of Distraction: Is There a Solution?

Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?

Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?

Distraction, it’s something that happens to all of us in today’s modern society. It can be enjoyable at times (scrolling though Facebook while waiting for a flight), but it can also lead to some terrible situations (scrolling though Facebook while driving).

Continue reading Two Theories of Distraction: Is it Becoming a Bigger Issue?

Shutdown Rituals: Leave The Work Stress at Work

 

Shutdown Rituals: Leave The Work Stress at Work

We hate to admit it, but nearly all of us take work home with us, it can be hard to just pack up and the end of the day and leave everything at the office. Whether we literally take home things to do after leaving work, or mentally take work problems home, it happens. Unless your job requires it—leave work stress in the office!

Continue reading Shutdown Rituals: Leave The Work Stress at Work

A Sneaky Way to Eliminate Technological Distractions at the Dinner Table

Have you ever sat down with your family for dinner, only to be faced with the glare of smartphones from everyone at the table?  If so, then Dolmio Australia claims to have a technological solution to the problem:

Continue reading A Sneaky Way to Eliminate Technological Distractions at the Dinner Table

iPad Update a Step Back for Mindfulness?

Apple recently announced that iOS 9 for the iPad will allow two apps to be displayed side-by-side simultaneously.  This feature, like every multitasking “improvement,” is being promoted as a way to enable users to be more productive, so why do I find myself feeling sad that Apple didn’t continue to hold the line against the “everything, everywhere, all-the-time, simultaneously” philosophy that consumes device and operating system design all too often?

Continue reading iPad Update a Step Back for Mindfulness?

Overload Isn’t the Only Problem with Information

We often hear that “information overload” is a problem of our times.  We receive “too much information” and, as a result, we are overwhelmed, anxious, and distracted.

Continue reading Overload Isn’t the Only Problem with Information

Nattch Offers a Social Networking System with Reduced Distractions

Nattch is an online social networking system that only allows users to post updates about their actual lives–no links to other information on the Internet allowed.  The goal is to limit posts to information about users themselves, and to eliminate the clutter and temptation of links to external–and usually irrelevant–information.

Continue reading Nattch Offers a Social Networking System with Reduced Distractions

David Levy Teaches Course on “Information and Contemplation”

University of Washington Professor David Levy teaches a course entitled, “Information and Contemplation,” in which he guides students through mind-training exercises, such as engaging in only one digital task at a time, to raise students’ awareness about how they use computer technology.  He also begins each session with a short meditation.  Read more about it at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

Mexican Resort Introduces Digital Detox Program

The Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico have introduced a “Digital Detox” program.  If you sign up for the program, a “Detox Concierge” will cleanse your suite of digital distractions upon your arrival, such as by removing the flat screen television from the room, replacing it with classic board games, and taking your personal electronic devices from you and storing them in a safe. I was interested to hear Sharon Brody’s commentary about the program on NPR this morning, which the NPR web site entitles, “Digital Detox Vacation: For Those Who Have Everything–Except Willpower.” 

Continue reading Mexican Resort Introduces Digital Detox Program

Attention as a Resource

Matthew B. Crawford has an interesting piece in the New York Times suggesting that we view our attention as a resource and recognize that “a person has only so much of it.”  “What if we saw attention in the same way that we saw air or water, as a valuable resource that we hold in common? Perhaps, if we could envision an “attentional commons,” then we could figure out how to protect it.”

 

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

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