The article isn’t as hyperbolic as I was braced for, and connects the recent spate of Facebook billionaires lamenting that they just discovered that Facebook may not be the best thing for people or society (but thanks for the $billions).
I’m not about to say that having supercomputers in our pockets, wirelessly connected to the sum of published human knowledge and to every other pocket-supercomputer, is anything but an incredible boon for humanity. But, the way that capitalism and advertising revenue combined with algorithmic distribution to maximize “engagement” and tie into the feedback loop to boost ad revenue and then tweak algorithms and then boost ad revenue etc. etc. ad nauseum? Yeah. That might need a little work.
To ensure that our eyes remain firmly glued to our screens, our smartphones – and the digital worlds they connect us to – internet giants have become little virtuosos of persuasion, cajoling us into checking them again and again – and for longer than we intend. Average users look at their phones about 150 times a day, according to some estimates, and about twice as often as they think they do, according to a 2015 study by British psychologists.
Add it all up and North American users spend somewhere between three and five hours a day looking at their smartphones. As the New York University marketing professor Adam Alter points out, that means over the course of an average lifetime, most of us will spend about seven years immersed in our portable computers.