Phubbing alert: what is behind not being able to let go of the cell phone?

Paying more attention to the screens than the one in front of us has become a common act, but it can generate consequences and, according to specialists, even an addiction. How to tell if devices took control of your life

Ten years ago, in his book The Fatigue Society, the South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han would open a difficult door for today’s society: the idea of ​​people who enjoyed full freedom but, paradoxically, remained chained. One of the phenomena that he reviews is that of hyperatention. The replacement of deep and contemplative attention by “dispersed attention, characterized by an accelerated change of focus between different tasks, sources of information and processes. Given, in addition, his low tolerance to boredom, he also does not admit that deep boredom that would be of some importance for a creative process ”.

Transposing the sayings of the critic of the “performance society”, we could be in the presence of the philosophical basis of an increasingly recurring practice, from which no one, or almost no one, is exempt: phubbing or no-blunder.

It arises from the neologism that combines “phone” and “snubbing” and denotes the act of ignoring the person in front of him for looking at the screen of a device. The term is not as popular as action, which a decade ago could be seen as rude and today seems to be incorporated into everyday life. Although it still provokes some discussion at the family table, the societies seem to have surrendered to it. In times of social isolation and mandatory due to the coronavirus pandemic, in which the cell phone became essential to carry out all kinds of tasks, the phenomenon gained even more notoriety.

“The cell phone and the networks captured our social instinct and redirected it, allowed us to feel that we are connected to someone, even if that someone is not connected to us. This generates a kind of placebo effect that satisfies our need to be in contact with others. They take advantage of this human characteristic to keep us captivated indefinitely, along with the promise of constant novelty; there is always a new post, the satisfaction of a like or a new follower. Everything is very attractive to us, many times more than the talk with the one we have ahead ”, explained to Infobae the Argentine technologist Santiago Bilinkis, author of the book Guide to survive the present: Caught in the digital age.

Over the years, those who configured the devices intelligently adapted their mechanisms to increase attraction. The renowned algorithms do their thing and each user perceives content adapted to their tastes and interests. The entrepreneur and economist defined it as “that siren song that attracts us to go immediately to the phone, which is given by what each platform needs to induce in us.” In this way, as detailed, people unlock their screens on average between 120 and 150 times per day. Approximately every six minutes of time spent awake.

“Notifications, for example, are not intended to notify us, but to interrupt us, to distract us from whatever else we are doing to do what each platform needs us to do. Sometimes the phone doesn’t even need to ring (it is the effect known as “phantom vibration”). We already know subconsciously that there are a lot of things happening on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and that the price of being here and now chatting with someone else is to miss it, “he emphasized.

“I don’t want to demonize them, they are spectacular, but we are fighting a very unequal battle, where there are very sophisticated companies that understood very well how our head works. The purpose of Facebook is not to connect with your friends, but to take advantage of the connection that you want to have with your friends to be able to show you advertising on the road. It is important that we understand that the objective of the platforms is not always well aligned with ours, “stressed Bilinkis.

The desire to check, respond, play, generates anxiety and, by not being reciprocated immediately, anguish. The feeling is so recurrent that it has its name in English: FOMO syndrome (Fear of missing out), the fear of missing out on something that is happening in the digital world, of being excluded. Phubbing is one of the consequences, but there are even deeper reasons to understand why it is so difficult to let go of the smartphone.

The psychologist Jorge Catelli (MN 19868), from the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, delved into the human psyche to identify the roots of behavior. “Psychoanalysts recognize autoerotic activity in children, the famous oral stage, when, almost before recognizing their own body, they suck their thumb. There are different moments of their development until they come to find that in contact with the other, in an external object. Today the devices offer an intermediate zone, much closer to the individual and that autoeroticism; There is a waiting for a reward, a symbolic gratification in the networks ”, he argued, in dialogue with Infobae.

“The phubbing what it shows is how the device is used by minds that have a tendency to disconnect, a previous tendency, to be able to feel more captured by the screen than by the person who has a scant meter. It works as if we were turning the volume up to a pre-existing situation. They reflect in a potentiated way what happens in the psyche. Are the WhatsApp groups causing misunderstandings or is it our own use of the language? “

The psychologist Laura Jurkowski (MN 19244), and author of the book Effect of screens, How to achieve digital balance ?, expanded: “The misuse of technologies can hide some other problem of a psychological nature, and become an addictive action. It is about seeking satisfaction that is not otherwise achieved, filling a void with momentary relief that eventually ends and leads to the same action again. “

Jurkowski is the director of “Reconnect”, a center specialized in addictions to the Internet, video games and technology. When can we think that this seemingly spontaneous and widespread use of telephones became an addiction? “It happens when screens create problems in personal life. When they interfere with the relationship with other people, when they do not allow to concentrate on other tasks or, if I cannot access them due to, for example, a lack of battery, it causes nerves, irritability. The discomfort can go as far as depression or situations of violence ”, he explained.

There is no age to feel such an attachment to platforms, but the problem intensifies between 17 and 30 years old, when the school stage is left behind. Not treating it can lead to complications of all kinds. The specialist cited a case: “I have had many inquiries by young people who are addicted to online games. Your day is based on that. They lock themselves in their rooms, without social contact outside the screens and their headphones. The food is brought to the place. They can go days without bathing. The hours of sleep are disturbed, the schedules invert ”.

Along with entertainment, the screens promise approval, links, but according to Catelli, professor and researcher at the University of Buenos Aires, it is a false illusion: “It is a fiction that acquired such great symbolic value that it begins to mess with reality. and generate effects in the own representation of each subject, which generates the need to be aware of the devices; if that energy begins to be absorbed by the device and the autoerotic search is in that gadget, which is foreign to me, but it is already a part of my head, of my ideas, we are going to observe attitudes like phubbing ”.

An imperative behind the screens: be (or appear) happy

The French philosopher Pascal Bruckner wrote about “perpetual euphoria,” happiness as a social demand. A demand that becomes unattainable. Social networks pose a similar search. “The subject in the networks, in general, does not put the photos that show him lackluster or having a bad time. It is an ostentation of happiness, prefabricated. Instagram is an excellent example, where stigmatizing and stigmatized versions of what the current social ideal is demanding appear, ”said Catelli.

For his part, Bilinkis added: “Most of what we share on the networks is not reality. Thus we make a very unequal comparison between the edited and little spontaneous world of the others and our daily life. Constantly looking at yourself in a distorting mirror ends up damaging your own subjective experience. When you go in the bus, tired, cold, and you start to look, it seems that you are the only one living a normal life, with mishaps, and not with sunsets. But curiously, accessing lives that seem better is what produces engagement, interaction. ”

The question becomes existential. Do we live to show or to enjoy? “The excessive emphasis that most networks place on the visual, gives a totally excessive importance to aesthetics above all other dimensions. Followers and “likes” become an objective measure. So many of us end up living our lives more concerned with what we show ourselves than what we enjoy. We are in front of a wonderful landscape and instead of letting ourselves be flooded by its grandeur we are seeing where the selfie is going to come out best, ”said the technologist.

Three specific symptoms that something is wrong and some healthy practices

“The question all the time has to be who is controlling whom. Do I control the phone or is he taking control of my life? ”Asks Bilinkis. The specialists summarized the behaviors and metrics that could highlight compulsive use of the devices:

  • The number of unlocks. The average of 120 is a high number and only “understandable” for those people who work with their phones. Doing it up to about 50 times per day is a reasonable parameter, different applications can measure it to verify it. Checky is one of the most widespread.

-The amount of time of use. Exceeding three hours a day would indicate the beginning of excesses.

-Non-variety. Spending hours in front of screens in just one or two apps is a negative indicator.

On the other hand, they emphasize healthier practices, mainly in quarantine, when the use of devices is (necessarily) longer:

-Deactivate notifications, in order to use and unlock the device when the user makes the decision to do so.

-Incorporate a maximum time limit for the use of each application to raise awareness of the practice and limit the possibility of consuming content, today unlimited. Avoid marathons. It is possible to measure the number of hours frequented in each app from the iOS and Android operating systems.

-Define hours of use for each task, either in the game for children or when adults decide to check work emails. “With quarantine it is very difficult to establish containment meshes that allow differentiation. This generates enormous exhaustion and distress, negative stress, due to permanent demand, ”Catelli described.

-Have cell phone free spaces.

  • ”Not all the actions we carry out with the screens are the same. In quarantine technologies are an ally, but you have to vary, “said Jurkowski. It proposes to implement a varied agenda with the screens to not only spend time consuming, passively, but also actively participating, for example, in an online gym class.

-Establish a digital diet. “When we found out that fast food was unhealthy, we replaced the term with trash food. But we do not stop eating it. We know that our diet cannot be based on them, that’s why we do it every so often. The Internet is full of junk content. We can indulge ourselves, but it doesn’t always feed the mind. We must add various sources to our heads ”, explicit, metaphor through, Bilinkis.

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