I have been thinking a lot about this tech addiction topic over the last week. Some problems just keep beating you about the head and shoulders until you try to do something about them.
And according to the data I’m looking at. It’s a big problem.
Billions of dollars have been spent by technology and internet companies to find out how to get you to play games. Every little detail is controlled and optimized, from the graphics to the music to the way the game is presented.
Fact is, however, that it really doesn’t take much to get people to play games. Most of us seem somewhat natural at doing trivial and repetitive things. Somewhere right now there is still somebody wasting hours playing Tetris from the 1990s. A few little colored shapes dropping from the top of the screen. Millions of hours were spent on it.
From what I can tell, people have a natural desire to be in a state of flow. Professor Mihály Csikszentmihályi describes the flow state like this:
- clear and distinct objectives
- temporary loss of self-consciousness
- distorted sense of time
- actions merging with awareness
- immediate feedback
- high concentration on the task
- high level of control over this task
- balance (precise matching) between the available skills and the task challenges
- experiences bring full satisfaction and are worth doing for their own sake
The problem is, the last item — experiences bring full satisfaction — is a very relative thing. What you view as being worthwhile in itself this very minute could be completely different than how you would value it a year from now.
From my email stream yesterday
I figure that I work hard and effectively 8 or 10 hours a day, and as my world stands right now, that gives me the privilege to do what I please the rest of the time. So when I said 4-5 hours, I didn’t mean that I want to get rid of those 4-5 hours, and spend them doing something else.
I have to admit that whether something is “productive” has almost zero influence on whether I am inclined to do it….
I don’t know whether I’m striking the right balance between spending “unproductive” time online and spending time doing other things — maybe I would be happier spending 2 hours a day average instead of 4; it feels like there’s a little element of addiction influencing me. But I know that I would not be happier spending 0, or 1.
There are 3 great points here.
- Technology is like food. It’s not like we can turn it off. Like it or not, we’re stuck in a world where to communicate with others and do our jobs we’re going to be using technology. The same world-wide web that helps cancer researchers has tens of millions of folks playing Farmville. It’s just the merest tiny change in an URL
- People feel like they’re owed something. Hey, I put in my time at work and I deserve a little happiness. If watching porn or lolcats makes me a little happier for a few hours, then it’s a good thing.
- But shit, did I really need to spend 4 hours on that? — There’s this underlying feeling that as entertained and happy as we are using technology, as much as it helps, we’re missing out on something.
Old farts like me (45) are supposed to say things like “I remember back when we had to hitch the horses up to go into town. Younguns today are whiny little spoiled things”
So I’ll say something like that.
I remember when I grew up what is was like to be bored. Summer would be in full swing, we’d get up and have breakfast – -then what? It was very common to complain to mom and dad about not having anything to do. There were 3 channels on TV and it was all soap operas during the day. We had no video games or taped movies.
Boredom was a real, physical, immediate, painful experience. But mom and dad would always say something like “you need to go and make yourself something fun to do, son”
The pain led to complaining, which led to self-direction and creative play. We’d build monsters from old blankets, make a play, create a new game. It was just you. If you wanted something fun, it took physical and mental work — sometimes a lot of it. Boredom was nature’s way of telling you that you had to create, invent. Act.
I’m sure my great, great grandfather probably had the exact same experience with hunger. Nothing to eat? Painful experience. Motivates you to go out and hunt and kill something. Pain drives adaptation. Now we all sit around eating junk food all the time, fat as pigs. My grandfather would be amazed.
Like bad food, bad technology just makes you want to do more of it. So how do you do just a little bit of something instead of so much? What’s the low-carb, good sugar version of technology?
How do you unplay a game?If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.