“It’s more complex than that. What we do is to raise awareness of how over-reliance on technology changes us. It can affect how we interact, for example. We need to make sure that the technology we use doesn’t exploit us. What I do is to educate people about these issues through methods such as talks and training programmes.”
Built to binge
So why are people so addicted to their tech gadgets? Anastasia says that this is due to a mindset vulnerability. “Our brains are looking for novelties and opportunities. Exploring new things give us rewards. For example, on social media, we keep looking for novelty, expecting new likes. It is the expectation of the reward that keeps us online.”
More time spent online means that more data is collected, which in turn means greater profits for the companies looking to exploit people’s interest in social media. Even Netflix TV is a different proposition in terms of the way in which people watch programmes.
“Online streaming channels broadcast one episode immediately after the other one has finished,” says Anastasia. “It’s a way of increasing your time. People underestimate the time spent with modern technology. We have to change habits and create structures supporting us in it.”
Too much reliance on today’s gadgetry can result in a number of issues. Lack of focus and concentration. Reduced creativity. Inability to problem solve. Less emotional empathy.
“When scientists analysed the study habits of teenagers, they found that the youngsters were distracted approximately every three to six minutes. They would go off and do something different (such as send an email). It led to a lack of concentration and focus.”
It’s a problem that spreads to the workplace. The more distractions there are, the greater the chance that employees get into the habit of self-interrupting instead of concentrating on the task in hand. “Creative thinking is a key asset in today’s workplace,” says Anastasia. “But you need to be able to get focused and then have an ‘empty’ brain to be creative. What skills are we developing if we are distracted by gadgets such as smartphones? If that’s the case, we become more machine-like and less competitive.”
Another downside of these daily distractions is that it can take longer to complete the job in hand. This, in turn, leads to later nights, less sleep, and more stress.
But could this approach be about to change?
“Interestingly, we are seeing a backlash,” says Anastasia. “For example, in some of the local Notting Hill shops, a top seller is the board game. There are also multiple retreats for courses such as The Here And Now, yoga, survival skills, and Back To Nature. It’s something that’s being talked about by Brits. In the tech community, there are also more talks about how to achieve a greater sense of sustainability.”
While it’s not a scenario that tech companies will want (sophisticated methods will be introduced of persuading people to use their devices more), Anastasia says that there are ways of monitoring how long we spend with technology, and initiatives such as Google’s Digital Wellness Programme.
“While I don’t think that these will solve the problem (with people still waking up to technology), I do, however think that there is growing awareness of the problem. It will be interesting to see where this goes in the future.”