The Psychology of Living In A Data-Driven World

– Before I even start with the episode, I have to put a disclaimer out there. This is not me bashing technology. I love tech. I know it makes our lives super convenient. Rather, I’m trying to explore the psychological side of technology. Sometimes I feel like our world just moves really fast, and our psyche can’t keep up. Things are rapidly changing, and the way that we react to these changes, the way these changes make us feel can be very interesting. Here is what I mean. – (clearing throat) – What, man? Remember those times you walked into your house after a tough day, sat down with a piece of toast and hummus of course, and just reflected? Maybe the answer is yes for some of you, but I can’t remember the last time I had my thoughts to myself. And if you’re anything like me, you have your phone or your computer or your iPad, whatever, by your sides all times. And you just start working away. Right when you get home without a break, and maybe that’s a millennial thing, and yeah, don’t let the lack of hair fool you, I was born in ’87, but my point is, you’re tired when you come home from work, and you still have a million things to do. Cook dinner, clean up around the house, hang out with your family. And you could and should do all of those things. But Netflix and Hulu, and social networks. Sometimes we use our access to technology to block out the real world. Instead of dealing with thing X, Y, and Z, I’m just going to watch my favorite show and zone out for a little while. And honestly, that doesn’t even work for me sometimes because I’ll think man, I should really be mowing my lawn, when instead I’m sitting here just watching TV like a sloth. That’s a psychological effect, that’s what tech can do to us. We almost use it as a shield, a protector, something to help take us away from our obligations. But, then we get caught in the middle, right, because those responsibilities don’t simply just go away. So it’s absolutely imperative that we keep a balance in mind and use technology as a reward for accomplishing a real life task. I know that a lot of people for example will reward themselves with watching their favorite show on a streaming device while they’re walking or running on a treadmill, and that’s a great way to combine two activities that’ll lead to a pleasurable outcome. And remember what I said, I just don’t have my thoughts to myself anymore, it seems like I can’t have a complete string of thoughts go through my head without a notification distracting me, whether it’s on my phone or my watch, or my computer. And as the viewer, your obvious reaction to this might be well, just turn off your notifications. But here is the psychological thing, it’s the immediate gratification that we get all the time from our technology. I like getting those little dings and the little badges and the notifications. And a lot of us, whether we want to believe it or not, tie our self-esteem to these notifications. So when I look at my phone and someone responds to a question I asked, or texts me that they miss me, it feels good and it’s this ridiculously vicious cycle that wreaks havoc on my psyche. This need for gratification then spills over into our daily lives and the relationships that we have not only with other people, but also ourselves. And there’s this other whole factor about living vicariously, right? So we go on social media and we see how other people are doing, and undoubtedly that leads to feelings of happiness, jealousy, envy, and worst-case scenario, you end up really disliking someone because of the life they live. Wow, look at Laura, she just had a baby, or why is Mattie always living it up, look at all those pictures of her having a good time. But anyway, looking through other people’s lives secretly by ourselves also creates a sense of isolation, which a lot of people nowadays refer to as FOMA, or a fear of missing out. Now, using tech we may like something or make a comment or retweet, but it’s not the same as having a face-to-face conversation with a person. It leaves a bit of a void that can then grow into some pretty angry or envious feelings if we’re not careful. Because people are really bad about comparing themselves to others. We know that’s not the right thing to do but still fall into that trap fairly quickly. It’s just so interesting that we spend so much time looking at other people’s lives that sometimes we forget to improve our own. Remember that time back in the day when people would actually read or listen to audiobooks on a train? I was recently on a train in Singapore, and I swear to you everyone around me was looking at social media on their mobile devices. And here is the final part of my rant and how this access to and copious use of technology ties into immediate gratification and this lack of connection with oneself. Imagine that you experienced something really cool, right? Maybe you’re driving around LA and you see Larry David, that actually did happen to me. Or someone who looks like Larry David. Now, I was with my friend at the time, so we laughed about it, but if I had been alone, I’m 100% positive that I would’ve tried to put it on Snapchat or even on Facebook, and then been super-happy when I got two likes from my friends. It’s funny because we try to forge connections through these exciting times, but forget to enjoy the moment. When people Snapchat entire songs at concerts, just live in the moment. Form that memory for yourself, look through your own eyes, not through another lens. Anyway, I read something really interesting the other day by author Cal Newport. Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad, the key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. And I think that’s important to remember as we continuously assimilate technology’s use into our daily lives. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself, disconnect with the tech every once in a while, put that need for immediate gratification on hold. Reflect on your emotions and feelings, and enjoy that hummus and toast, it will go a long way. Next, let’s take a look at how technology can influence your relationships with other people.

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