A digital detox does not solve our addictions. We need screen time for learning, creativity, and productivity. Other things tend to grab too much attention. Sometimes we “lose it”. Is there such a thing as a good digital diet? More reading here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The promise of the office
By now most of us do not remember the computational monsters of IBM in 1970s. The premise and promise of the personal computer was a digital office, where we could write documents, create spreadsheets, and make presentations. Visionaries like Steve Jobs were discussing magic, audio editing, and talking personal assistants. Everybody knew about video games, but there were dedicated game consoles for those.
Today, there are more screens than people. Almost everyone in rich countries has a mobile phone, a laptop, and a tablet, a smart TV, and maybe another smart device like a kindle, a PlayStation, or a smartwatch. Some have more. Each of these devices can do everything that was handled by supercomputers in 1990s, and some can do more. How do we use this computational power?
I am on a lifelong quest for productivity. Every device I use every day runs gmail and internet browser, messaging app, and calendar, video chat, and Waze. These are the basic tools of any reasonable person. Usually, I prefer the basic tools. I do not even use Anki and Evernote, although I definitely recommend them. My phones are used for communications, but they are too small and weak for real work.
On the laptops, I have more heavy-duty stuff. I have Office 360, several programming environments (Python, C++, AndroidStudio/XCode), and semi-professional media editing (photos, video, audio, music). I have a MacAir, Alienware 17” R4, Alienware 51, and some other capable computing. I want to be the weakest link in my computing environment. When I open tabs, I am not afraid to open 500 tabs on the same computer. I work fast, but my computers work faster.
My kids use their mobile devices to learn songs and play guitar and bass. I consider this productivity.
I think I spend 80% of my time on productive activities. So far I do not know anyone else who does that, maybe with the exception of my fellow memory experts.
Most people I know use their devices for casual gaming. This is fine. Video games may reduce stress, increase coordination, and improve strategic skills. When my kids play chess on their mobile I am super proud. Then I beat them and their programs on the hardest level within 5 min and feel cheated. But that’s life…
Personally I love casual strategy and tactics games. I choose different games each year and on average I use three games in parallel, maybe 20 min per game while watching TV.
My wife plays puzzle games before she goes to sleep. This is definitely not recommended due to blue radiation from the screens. She is 7 years younger than me and can sleep everywhere with any illumination.
I would say that my kids play too much, but they still play casual games maybe 20% of the time normal in their age. They prefer other things.
I do not remember myself or my wife watching youtube for more than 10 min per day, other than music clips. Everybody in our family loves music clips, but the girls love pop and the boys prefer rock and jazz.
My kids spend a lot of time watching YouTube. Some of these videos are educational. I am pretty sure my first child tries to learn programming and my second child learns media editing. They also watch snippets of various interesting facts and look for answers to their tricky questions.
The problem is all the other stuff they watch. Who needs so many hours of unboxing? No budget can handle this neverending burn. Why do they watch video game tutorials more than actually play video games? This stuff is counterproductive and somehow super addictive.
I believe Facebook is evil. I truly do. It feels like their job is not connecting people, but distracting people. From all the social media universe, I use only WhatsApp and even that rarely. Fortunately, my children are also not fond of social media. They love the social interfaces of the games they play.
There are countless publications about social media leading to anxiety, depression, aggression, and antisocial behavior. I am glad nobody in my family loves social media because I am not sure how we could fight it.
With top quality computing, screens, keyboards, and mouse devices, my children love gaming, especially shooting games. I remember that when I was younger I loved strategy games and MMORG (Runescape), but since I am blogging all of my free time the gaming is not for me.
The games that are played in our family are smart. They require strategy and tactics, quick thinking, and team play. These are all important qualities that develop my kids. I hate the fact that they prefer gaming over productivity, so I decided to remove gaming from my home.
I bought a Playstation and put it in my parent’s home. Then my children duplicated their user profile. After that, I asked them to choose between paying for their hardware from pocket money or removing all games at home. After days of deliberation, the games were removed. They are still played in my parent’s home, but I do not mind.
During the COVID19 most of the learning was done through Zoom. My children got used to remote learning. My wife got used to remote teaching. I never got used to video interfaces: I get screen fatigue faster than other people. Maybe because I have so much screen time anyway.
I get vertigo super fast. My professional expertise is 3D machine learning. I worked in AR and VR companies more than once. Yet, I do not allow immersive headsets at home. The main reason: the eyes get tired very fast. We have 4 screens in my computing area and 4 screens in my kids room, but we do not use all of the screens all the time and we can navigate computer games without immersion.
I have all the apps and hardware needed for hypnosis, sleep hacking, and biofeedback. For some time I tried the stuff, but eventually, I decided to focus on what I do best: visualization. The fancy tricks and gadgets are more of a distraction in this area.
Would I recommend limiting screen time? Definitely before 6 years old. Not for grown-ups.
Should we use social media? Linkedin, Whatsapp, Telegram, and Discord are probably fine. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter probably a bad distraction.
Which video games are fine? Puzzles and strategy games are probably OK. E-sport games might even be developing but can interfere with other activities. Simple shooting games with fewer strategic choices less recommended.
Are two screens OK? Not sure. I read very fast and yet I miss things in complex movies.
We should be able to recognize dangerous addition and stop it if possible.
According to WHO, gaming disorder is characterized by a persistent or recurrent pattern of behavior that includes:
- Impaired control over the frequency, intensity, and duration of online or offline video gaming;
- Gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and results in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning;
- Continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.
Good bad and ugly
Productivity and strategy games tend to be good.
Social media that generate anxiety and depression is bad.
Stupid games and stupid youtube videos are probably ugly.