You Won’t Finish This Article

A person browses through media websites on a computer on May 30, 2013.

Excerpt from this article:

I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all.

So here’s the story: Only a small number of you are reading all the way through articles on the Web. I’ve long suspected this, because so many smart-alecks jump in to the comments to make points that get mentioned later in the piece. But now I’ve got proof… Schwartz’s data shows that readers can’t stay focused. The more I type, the more of you tune out. And it’s not just me. It’s not just Slate. It’s everywhere online. When people land on a story, they very rarely make it all the way down the page. A lot of people don’t even make it halfway. Even more dispiriting is the relationship between scrolling and sharing. Schwartz’s data suggest that lots of people are tweeting out links to articles they haven’t fully read. If you see someone recommending a story online, you shouldn’t assume that he has read the thing he’s sharing.

 

 

Why Grandma’s Sad (A Response to the Article on Screen Addiction)

Following up on yesterday’s post about Kids and Screen Addiction, the article excerpted below argues that “what’s happening on all these screens is not, as the writer suggests, an endless braindead Candy Crush session, but a rich social experience of its own” [link to the full write-up, and see also this post on Kottke on the debate]:

That screen is full of friends, and its distraction is no less valuable or valid than the distraction of a room full of buddies or a playground full of fellow students. Screen Addiction is, in this view, nonsensical: you can no more be addicted to a screen than to windows, sounds, or the written word.

This is an argument worth making, probably. But tell it to an anxious parent or an alienated grandparent and you will sense that it is inadequate. It is correct, yes, and it addresses their stated concerns. But those concerns—that the screens are poisoning families, that they’re making kids unhealthy and sedentary, that they’re destroying curiosity—were never really the issue. Screen Addiction is a generational complaint, and generational complaints, taken individually, are rarely what they claim to be. They are fresh expressions of horrible and timeless anxieties.

…The grandparent who is persuaded that screens are not destroying human interaction, but are instead new tools for enabling fresh and flawed and modes of human interaction, is left facing a grimmer reality. Your grandchildren don’t look up from their phones because the experiences and friendships they enjoy there seem more interesting than what’s in front of them (you). Those experiences, from the outside, seem insultingly lame: text notifications, Emoji, selfies of other bratty little kids you’ve never met. But they’re urgent and real. What’s different is that they’re also right here, always, even when you thought you had an attentional claim. The moments of social captivity that gave parents power, or that gave grandparents precious access, are now compromised.

All of this reminds me of a book that I read years ago, Everything Bad is Good For You, by Steven Johnson, who made a similar argument that parents were misguided in bemoaning the ways in which their kids were devoting rapt attention to TV and video games, i.e., what if a kid was spending hours sitting sedentary, reading a book? would they be as concerned?

Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children

Excerpt from this article:

Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”

…Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.

Out in public, Dr. Steiner-Adair added, “children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

Edit:  Be sure to see this follow-up post about articles that take the other side of the argument.

This is what happens when you put away your phone for a week

No-cell-phones

Excerpt from this article:

1. People copied me: …Over the course of the week, I saw this effect again and again — when people pull out their devices and you don’t, not only do they feel pressured to put them away again more quickly, but they’re also far less likely to re-check them…

2. People liked talking to me more: …They could tell they had my undivided attention — not only was I not doing that half-nod, half-scroll thing, but I wasn’t even thinking about checking my phone. My listening skills went through the roof. As a result, people were much more engaged. When we were discussing something light-hearted, they smiled and laughed more. When we were talking about something serious, they were more honest and thoughtful…

3. People trusted me more: Well, according to the research. Studies show using your phone around someone else makes you seem less trustworthy and less empathetic…

These strategies make it a little easier:

  • I turn my phone off if I know I’m about to be with other people.
  • I stow my phone in my bag, rather than my pocket, so it’s harder to access.
  • I pretend I’m playing a game in which I get money for every phone-free interaction
  • I remind myself of the long-term gratification of building better relationships.

The danger of too many selfies: We’re striving for perfection that won’t come

Argentina

Excerpt from this article:

…Many selfies are driven by the twin forces of arrogance and anxiety. Like a dog chasing its tail, this is how much of our society now works. One group – arrogant, narcissistic and self-promoting – starts a trend. The other group – anxious and wanting to fit in – follows.

People who are narcissistic report sending the most selfies. This gets them attention and probably feels good – it you think you are hot, seeing your hotness broadcast to your social network is a positive experience. And this isn’t too surprising; it is the same pattern that appears in other social media, with narcissism predicting self-enhancing Facebook photos and number of Twitter posts.

The greater dangers from selfies are found on the anxiety side. For decades research psychologists have put mirrors and cameras in laboratories to understand what happens psychologically when we look at ourselves. The first experience is self-consciousness – we become aware of ourselves as objects. The second is comparison – we compare ourselves to our ideal standards. We think: Am I all that I should be? And the answer for many of us is no – with the result being anxiety.

This can be a problem with real consequences.

This App Rewards Students With Food for Not Checking Their Phones in Class

Italian style hoagie sandwich

Excerpt from this article:

The way to a teenager’s brain is through their stomach. Students on two campuses can now earn discounts at local shops and eateries by building points on an app that measures whether they check their phones during class.

…When students arrive at their lectures, they open the app (which can tell when it’s in a campus classroom) then lock their phone. The app then measures how long they go before checking their phone again. The longer it stays locked, the more points they get, and the more hoagies/cheesesteaks/pizzas they get to redeem at participating locations. Because if highly-trained Ph.D.’s can’t get kids to focus, surely the promise of hot cheese can.