Are computers and smartphones more a curse than a blessing? Especially as we use them multiple times each day to check up on social media, causing out productivity to plunge. In this post I explore why it may be a good idea to log off, from time to time.
The Curse of the Smartphone
Some suspect that the rise of smartphones, and similar devices, helps to explain plunging productivity. And I can see why. Take this graph from the Bank of England’s unofficial blog. It shows a dip in productivity since 2007 versus rising shipments of iPhones. Why 2007? Well, that’s the year that iPhones first appeared. Of course, time wasted on the Internet is not the whole productivity story. We all know how a moment’s inattention on social media can turn into hours distractions. And it’s even worse if we see a post which we disagree with.
Social Media Fury
People yield to the temptation to correct perceived wrongness with a caustic online retort. Even if tweets or posts are mildly amusing they can still provoke fury and outrage. And unfortunately, rage is contagious. It spreads like an infection across most online platforms. It’s even got a special name: the outrage economy. Intrusive and divisive opinions attract clicks and yield a double payoff. Here both publishers and platforms win. Posts are then shared by people who both agree and violently disagree with them. Sharers come to enjoy, even grow addicted to, this easy way of displaying indignation. And so the cycle of provocation continues. People lose any sense of empathy or curiosity in the rhetoric of online dispute.
More broadly, it’s not only smartphones, but the computer itself. This encourages time-wasting by making generalists of us all. In a modern office, there are no specialists anymore. Word has turned us all into typists. PowerPoint has turned us into amateur graphic designers. Excel allows us to crunch numbers once handled by professional computers (this was actually a human job). LinkedIn allows us to connect with like-minded professionals. Here we can discuss the nuances of our day-to-day existence at work. Put all these together and office life starts to look mildly entertaining. The problem is that there isn’t much time left to do the jobs for which we’re paid.
We can’t do without our devices, but now and then we desperately need to log off for a few days. By doing this we not only increase our productivity, but we can regain our sense of perspective.
Photo on Foter.com