Can’t Stop Scrolling

April 04, 2018

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She picked up her iPhone
64 times in four-plus hours

When you read the startling subhead above did you say to yourself, “How could one possibly know this?” These numbers appeared in an article titled Screen Saver by author Molly Young who says, “I know it’s right because I downloaded an app that told me so.” Her piece appeared in the January 2018 issue of Allure magazine.

TAKING CHARGE

A San Francisco startup named Yondr makes pouches that lock people out of their phones to prevent these devices from becoming a distraction and a crutch. In addition, a science journalist named Catherine Price has written How to Break Up With Your Phone  (Amazon has the book).  She writes, “Consider the idea that your phone is the other party in a bad relationship; it demands all of your attention and manipulates you; it has inappropriate boundaries and it monopolizes your time; sometimes it makes you feel good, but mostly it makes you feel bad.”

WHY CAN’T WE STOP?

Apparently we’re addicted to scrolling and refreshing. Why? Tristan Harris, a former Google executive says, “There’s a connection between smartphones and slot machines. They both occasionally dole out a reward in order to cultivate compulsive checking BUT there’s one key difference: with slot machines, you eventually run out of coins and have to go home. With phones, there’s no stopping cue.”

C’MON TAKE THE TEST

Be brave and CLICK HERE for the Smartphone Compulsion Test developed by David Greenfield, a psychiatry professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. When Molly took it she was advised to proceed directly to a professional who specializes in behavioral addictions.

GOING INTO REHAB

Alarmed at her test results the author googled “Internet addiction rehab” and found one legitimate-looking result in the United States located 30 minutes outside of Seattle. She jumped on a plane and ended up at reSTART, a facility founded in 2009 that accepts clients for 6- to 10-week inpatient sessions. CLICK HERE to read about this facility. Molly went as a visitor and notes that this rehab only accepts six clients at a time. All phones are handed over as soon as one enters.

WHAT IS IT LIKE?

The center is a spacious home surrounded by five acres of vine maples and evergreens. Wild mushrooms grow in fairy-tale clumps by the road. The author says, “It struck me as a place of such natural splendor that no one would want to be locked into a screen anyway.”

She soon realized that Internet rehab is a lot like any other kind of rehab: a mixture of therapy, exercise, and unstructured activities. The clients worked out, wrote (on a typewriter, not a computer), napped, ate snacks, chatted about music, made to-do lists, performed chores and met with counselors who gave both on-site and long-range advice: “Take a break from your phone one hour a day and work up to one day a month. Try one week a year. And feel how healthy and liberating it feels. We’re social animals – we need face-to-face interaction.”

WHAT WAS THE RESULT?

As Molly wandered around talking and observing she noticed that the clients all made direct eye contact, listened carefully and made sharp observations. They were good conversationalists – a quality that seems to be slowly dying.

Hallelujah! Someone finally said it! Personally, I’m tired of people talking to me while staring at a screen. Going home on the plane, Molly opted not to pay for Wi-Fi. Instead, she buried her cell in her backpack. “I was fully offline and unreachable,” she says.  In minutes she was asleep.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick



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