What if you checked your physical mailbox as often as you check your email?

What if you wrote a paper note for every text you sent in one day?

What if you went to your friends’ houses, and peeped through their windows as often as you check their Facebook profiles? 

We have all added media to our lives. Not just a little bit of media. A LOT of media. Email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, online movie streaming, music sharing, and more. Because of amazing advances in technology, we carry media everywhere—even into the bathroom.

We haven’t added any more time in the day. Last I checked, one day still included 24 hours. That means that adding media to our lives requires us to subtract something from our lives. After all, we simply don’t have enough time in the day for everything.

So what have we subtracted? 

1. We have subtracted down-time. Did you know that down-time is REALLY important for the human brain, especially as it relates to creativity?

Downtime used to be built into our day—waiting at a red-light or in line at Starbucks, sitting on a bus or in an airplane, and even going to the bathroom. In the past, this time would be filled with thinking, meditating, and most importantly rest.

But all of that is gone. If you have a minute (or even a few seconds) you have time to check a score, an email, or Facebook. Smartphones (and many other technologies) keep media within arms reach at all times, and they have successfully killed the concept of downtime.

I read an article in CNN a bit ago that talks about downtime, or what the article describes as boredom. According to the article, boredom has been replaced by the smartphone, and that is a bad thing. Our brains need space to re-set, re-fresh, and re-orient to the real world. By removing boredom or downtime, we are removing that vital space.

According to the article—and a book by friend of Family Talk Dr. Archibald Hart—there is a direct link between downtime and creativity and downtime and pleasure. By removing boredom, we are removing the space that would allow our brains to begin working past what is immediately in front of us to spend time in personal thought and reflection. That introspection is vital to our ability to be creative, and numbs our ability to experience real pleasure.

Dr. Hart, in his book Thrilled To Death, describes Anhedonia which translates as “against pleasure” or “lack of pleasure.” According to Dr. Hart, the pleasure center of the brain is like a barrel without a bottom—the more you give it, the more it wants. Guess what? Technology, media, and the consumption of both is stimulating the pleasure center of the brain. When we don’t give our brains space to re-set and re-calibrate to the world, we are numbing our ability to enjoy genuine pleasure like a sunset or tasty food.

Are you beginning to see the problem here, especially when we consider the fact that the next generation is growing up on technology? The unbridled consumption of media and technology leads to the death of creativity and the inability to experience genuine pleasure.

We have added media and technology to our lives, but we haven’t added any time to our lives. The first casualty of this new form of addiction is downtime. Next time, we will look at the bigger casualty. 

CNN Article: Have smartphones killed boredom (and is that good)?

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