Time-saving Technology

IndieBound 34 million Americans play video games an average of 22 hours a week, and another 5 million play for 40 hours or more, according to Vulture.com. These include adults — not just children. Never before have so many had so much of their time consumed by play.

But, you have to question why other forms of play don’t take nearly as much of their enthusiasts’ time. Few weekend duffers are logging 22 to 40 hours a week on the golf course. Most casual bridge or poker players get in just four to eight hours a week.

The fact is, these other activities aren’t engineered to be addictive; video games are. Gamers are famous for so losing track of time and becoming so immersed that they forget to eat, sleep or go to work — just the same as a heroin addict camped in a crack house. And it’s not just gaming that’s got us addicted.

The author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Dr. Adam Alter put it this way in a New York Times interview, March 7, 2017:

“In the past, we thought of addiction as related to chemiĀ­cal substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where people are spending three hours a day tethered to their cell phones. … These gadgets are the perfect delivery devices for addictive media. Games (and social media) were once confined to our home computers. Now, portable devices allow us to engage with them everywhere. Today, we’re checking our social media constantly.”

Participation in social media has been meticulously engineered to be addictive in every respect. Behavioral scientists, neurologists, psychologists, computer scientists and others have invested all their combined knowledge into creating and promoting a collection of activities we think of as social media, purposed to hijack more and more of your time, to provide incentives and rewards more significant and stimulating to you than all other activities and to ultimately rewire your brain to be incapable of participating in other activities. Imagine how susceptible we are to something deliberately designed for that purpose!

Join the resistance movement
At a private breakfast with David Sax, author of The Revenge of Analog, I asked him what he thought of the digital takeover of people’s minds and lives and my book’s subjects of time management and productivity. He said what seemed most revealing was that, even as the availability of cheap and free technology had grown explosively, productivity had stayed stubbornly flat. Most studies, he said, showed productivity basically flat-lining for the past decade while the tools, media, instant access and specifics like easy, cheap video conferencing had proliferated like rabbits on Viagra.