What we’re trying to do is figure out what leads us to the edge of the happiness cliff, that point at which we have maximum productivity, maximum happiness without going over the edge – Amy Blankson
There is no doubt that technology in the 20th century has brought advances unimaginable in previous eras. In the US gross domestic product per capita quintupled from 1950 to 2016. Things that were once luxuries have become affordable commodities.
However, with such advances, computers and all that comes with them, internet, games, email, etc., are now in our pockets, purses or strapped to bodies. They are extensions of ourselves.
Tech companies pay big money to UX designers and engineers to create devices and apps that grab and keep your attention. They high want high engagement metrics. They need you to spend time in an app or a video and to come back, over and over.
So we all know it impacts our productivity but what about our happiness? What is the impact of a world of screens and notifications on our cognitive behavior and development? What about our relationships?
Enter Amy Blankson, my guest on this episode. Amy has become the world’s leading expert on the connection between happiness and technology. Amy is an alum of both Harvard and Yale and has worked with organizations like NASA, Google, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help improve well-being in a Digital Era.
Amy states the problem in terms of discernment. “There’s this pain point about technology and happiness with technology specifically draining happiness because people feel overwhelmed. They don’t know what to do with all the information… and how to evaluate what’s actually good for them.”
There is now a condition called Nomophobia, as in no-mo(bile) phone-phobia. It’s a fear of being without your smartphone. Seriously, a phobia and 40% of Americans “suffer” from it.
One in five young adults admits to using a smartphone during sex. What?
Okay, I’ll cop to using the phone in the bathroom, so I need help.
We are in uncharted territory.
Amy says that we absolutely need to look at our relationship with technology very carefully but what she came away with from her research was surprising to me; that time on the screen is not necessarily a bad thing.
Time on the screen is not necessarily bad. What is bad is the unintentional non-thoughtful use of the technology – Amy Blankson
In fact, she goes further stating that technology can actually increase happiness – IF you use it wisely
There’s the rub. Using it wisely
On this episode we discuss what she learned writing her new book, The Future of Happiness. Amy talks about how we can mitigate the dispiriting effects tech can have and rather leverage it to increase our happiness. She’s done the research and has the data on what you can do in the midst of work / life to harness tech to serve your real needs in relation to happiness: social connection, meaning, and well-being.
Amy answers a lot of questions I had on the podcast like…
- Is there an inverse relationship between personal happiness and tech innovation?
- How should we use Facebook, or should we abandon it?
- Would we be happier without tech?
- What is the impact of distraction on our well-being?
- How do I manage all my apps to minimize distraction?
- What about wearables?
- What do we teach our kids regarding appropriate tech boundaries – what exactly IS appropriate?
- Are there specific apps that can helps us become happier and healthier?
Give it a listen.
Resources discussed in this episode
- The Future of Happiness book
- RealizeD app
- My Fitness Pal
- Rosetta Stone
- Amy’s best app and gadget recommendations
- Google Home