#13: Technology is Ruining Your Life, and How to Fight Back

by | Nov 23, 2020 | Podcast

Hello

Welcome back to another episode of We Live to Build, the podcast for entrepreneurs to learn about positive psychology, personal growth and development, growth mindset, leadership, and a lot of other awesome topics! For those of you who are just joining us, I urge you to go back and listen to Episode number 1 first to get an idea of what we are doing here, as well as the About Page at welivetobuild.com/about to listen to my back story. Today’s episode is called “Technology is Ruining Your Life, and How to Fight Back”, but also from watching The Social Dilemma, an amazing documentary where the people who were responsible for building today’s buzziest platforms admit how they made mistakes in allowing this tech to become ubiquitous!


In this episode you’ll learn about:

  • The current situation

  • How it affects you

  • (and) How you can fight back


Intro

In today’s world, technology is everywhere. From the laptops we work on, to the smartphones glued to our hands, to the smart watches on our wrists and the VR headsets on our heads, we literally can’t escape technology. The companies you know and love to hate have spent collectively tens of billions of US dollars over the last 15 years specifically studying human Psychology. They will come up with an idea for various features and functions without thinking about whether they will be good or bad for us. Then they’ll develop basic versions and do multiple rounds of testing with unsuspecting users to determine the most optimal way to get them to engage as often as possible. In plain terms, they are studying how to make their system as addictive as possible, and we are their Pavlovian dog subjects. (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, I urge you to study the Russian Psychologist Ivan Pavlov and his experiments with dogs, bells, salivation, and food). But why would they do that? Well, since most of these platforms we use are free, we the user are actually the product. Every click, like, upvote, comment, share, and mouse movement is carefully monitored and fed into a machine learning algorithm that builds up a psychological profile of you and everyone you know. Then, they take this information and sell it to anyone with enough money to buy it, and for almost any purpose you can think of. Not only do they do this, but they also they use machine learning to determine how to populate your news feed. Mostly, this feed is being controlled by an AI that doesn’t understand that what it’s doing is hurting people, but it’s discovered that the most optimal way to keep you engaging on the system is to show you the worst things it can find online, things that either make you angry or sad. It will feed you anything from harmless but probably useless products, to manipulating your decision on who to vote for in whatever election is coming up, and even to radicalizing people with tons of disinformation that appears credible. In general though, the AI models have discovered that anger and sadness are the best emotions to make you feel. Angry people are more likely to comment or engage with likes, etc. and they will keep scrolling to get more dopamine hits that creates a negative feedback loop in your mind. If you aren’t made to feel angry, then you will certainly be feeling sad because everyone on your feed is posting pictures about how either the world is falling apart, or how they are enjoying life on the beach sipping margaritas and you’re stuck at home with your crying baby. Inevitably, someone on some platform will say or do something that makes you feel something you probably don’t want to feel, so WHY put yourself in that situation to begin with? That’s just social media platforms. There are other apps in your phone designed to scan your phone for everything it possible can, like your contacts, email history, GPS location history, and much more. Again, their entire goal is to grab as much information as possible to again sell back to advertisers, all without your knowledge or consent, and sometimes to the US government or other governments who want to track your every move.


How does it affect you?

On top of that, the notification pings coming from the dozens of apps demanding your attention are a source of constant anxiety. It wasn’t meant to be like this, and yet it is. My hypothesis is that while technology has served to connect us and speed up the process of globalization, it has in essence destroyed the human touch and altered the course of history to make us more depressed, more divided, and feel more hopeless about the future. It has made people more radicalized and allowed people like Trump and Bolsonaro to win elections, and enabled a whole wave of anti-semitism, anti-vaccination, and a myriad of other conspiracy theories to quickly become mainstream opinions across the world. This is extremely dangerous and we must be aware of what is happening so we can protect ourselves and our loved ones. While as one person there isn’t much you can do to change the world away from this, there are several things you can do for yourself and hopefully those closest to you. If we all work on this together, maybe we have a shot of breaking our addiction from negative uses of technology: Before you can start to make changes in your own life, you must first understand just how severe your addiction to tech is. Let’s start by downloading an app called Digital Wellbeing, which shows you how many times in a day you unlock your phone, how many notification pings you receive, and how much time you spent on each app as well as a total amount of time on the phone for that day. Pause this podcast and go do it NOW. It’s okay, I can wait. I’m assuming you have a look of horror on your face as you see just how addicted you are to your phone.


How to fight back

Now that you probably feel shame or disgust, we can get serious about making changes, and here is what I do myself that has helped a lot:

  1. Go through your phone and delete as many apps as possible that you never use or rarely use.
    This will help de-clutter your system and therefore lower the levels of anxiety by seeing too many things in front of you.

  2. Now delete apps that you use the most on your phone and can easily be used on your computer instead, like Facebook Messenger.
    The reason for this is to force yourself to use the phone less, and therefore you’ll only use it from your computer while working. If you leave your computer and go out, you will be less likely to check that thing, and therefore use your phone less.

  3. Never take your phone into the bathroom
    You know you do it, so make the conscious decision to STOP.
    You can easily waste an hour just sitting there, not to mention your hands are dirty and you’re touching your phone the entire time!

  4. When you are face to face with someone, no matter who they are, turn your phone on silent mode and FOCUS ON THEM.
    Don’t you hate it when the person you are meeting with isn’t totally present?
    They are probably playing on their phone while you are talking.
    They are being rude and ignoring you.
    If that person isn’t doing it to you, chances are YOU are the one doing it to them.
    So pay attention to who they are because dammit why the hell did you meet them if you were going to play on your phone?

  5. When you are walking on the street or have idle time, keep your phone in your pocket and DON’T take it out no matter how much of an urge you feel to do so.
    This forces you to look at the beautiful world you are living in and appreciate your life.

  6. When you go to sleep, turn your phone off or put it on airplane mode. Try to leave it in another room if you can.
    This is important because notifications can affect our sleep, and having the phone next to you makes it more likely that you’ll ignore your partner (if you have one), or spend time in bed with the bright screen in your face on and off throughout the night if the pings wake you up.
    Just cut that behavior now and you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed immediately, I promise.

  7. Stop using social media
    As mentioned earlier in this episode, these platforms are designed to hurt your mental health and nothing more.
    Instead of stalking their feed and liking, sharing, and commenting on people’s nonsense posts, pick up the damn phone and CALL them because that is NOT their real life.
    At the same time, STOP posting on social media, and stop engaging with people who are clearly trolls looking for an argument.
    It’s a rabbit hole, you’ll never win, they have nothing to lose.
    In fact, their entire game is just to make you angry after all, so why let them?
    This data is also used to figure out what to show you to keep you there, as well as to sell to advertisers so they know what ads to serve you, and those ads and social platforms follow you around the internet.
    Ever heard of Facebook Pixel? It’s big brother, research it.
    Don’t believe me, watch The Social Dilemma right now.


  8. Lastly, if you are developing a software platform right now, please consult with Psychologists to figure out how you can safely create something that people can enjoy without hijacking their mind and hurting their mental health.
    As company owners and technologists, it’s our duty to help humanity turn the corner from the horrible practices of the 2010s and move towards beneficial tech that helps us instead of hurts us.
    If you can do all these things, you will work towards removing your dependence on your smart phone, which will increase your sense of happiness and improve your mental health immediately.


Meditation!

You know another way to help yourself deal with tech addiction? Meditation! It’s something that’s been amazing for me, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, episode 3 talks about how Meditation can save your life. If you want to go deeper, I’ve created a free guide for how to get started on meditation at https://welivetobuild.com/meditate. Thank you very much for listening to this episode, I hope you liked it. If you did, please share it with everyone you know, I’m sure everyone could learn something from this. And remember, Entrepreneurship is a Marathon, not a Sprint so take care of yourself every day. Thank you.

About the Community

On the podcast, Sean talks with entrepreneurs about the reality of their struggle to succeed, as well as answering questions from the community, and sharing nuggets of wisdom from his own life.


Discover through these amazing episodes the courage to open your mind, heart, and soul to the world so you can be the best entrepreneur possible, respect the people you work with, and improve the world with your company while not hurting others or yourself in the process.

Sean Weisbrot

Sean Weisbrot

Sean is an entrepreneur, investor, and advisor based in SE Asia for over 12 years. He is passionate about Psychology and helping others improve themselves.

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