Their heads were bowed. Their eyes were lowered. For a moment, I thought Manhattanites were in mourning again. Only it wasn’t 2001. It was 2008. And everyone I saw on the street was looking at their smartphones.
I haven’t lived in the United States since 2003, but every time I visit my family there, I am amazed at the changes I see. The Digital Revolution hit the streets of New York well before it hit any part of Germany, or so it seemed at the time as I cruised through Times Square in my airport shuttle bus.
Just a few years later, our gadget usage has become so extreme that we multitask constantly.
At the end of November 2014, Discovery Communications reported that 82% of its viewers checked their smartphones while watching television. I see my kids doing it. Sometimes I am tempted to do it too.
Split-screen living is nothing new. Maggie Jackson lamented about the pull of our gadgets in her book Distracted in 2008. On a rainy spring day in New York City, I met with her after her book came out. She helped me formulate some of my thoughts on our digital gadget usage that later became part of The Power of Slow.
And now this: According to a recent Nielson study, Americans use electronic media more than 11 hours a day. If you sleep for eight hours, that is only 5 hours without electronic input.
If I am to believe my eyes (and not this study), people use their smartphones for more than 1.25 hours a day. We use them for everything — for entertainment, business, personal messaging and even for getting up in time in the morning. I am as guilty as the next, checking emails while waiting in line, updating my status on nature walks and life-caching when the mood strikes.
We are living in a Brave New World. Maggie Jackson was right. Our attention is eroding. Mindful living is at risk.
You will find more statistics at Statista
If you think it is any different in Germany, well, it is not. More than half the population uses a smartphone now.
So what can we do?
- Leave your phone the next time you head for the hills (or the woods).
- Conduct a digital diet. Turn your phone off (all the way — airplane modus doesn’t count) for at least an hour each day.
- Free yourself from Facebook. A few months ago I spent seven days Facebook-free and was amazed at how much leisure time I suddenly had.
- Read. Don’t know a good book? If you like a good love story, pick up a copy of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes or The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
- Exercise (sex counts!).
Life is about more than ‘likes’ and texts. It is about personal connection and affection. Put down your phone and look your kid in the eye the next time he asks you a question.
Get offline and into life. Every day.