Is Screen Time Making Us Miserable?

I recently viewed a TED talk entitled, "Why our screens make us less happy." This talk really got me thinking ... how much of my personal time is screen time? If this time is considered sacred, why am I wasting it with constant bombardment of useless content? A massive epiphany ensued, thanks to Psychologist Adam Alter. 

Alter studies how much time screens steal from us and how they're getting away with it. He shares why all those countless hours you spend staring at your smartphone, computer, or tablet device may be making you miserable, and what you can do about it. I urge you to take ten minutes out of your day to watch his talk in its entirety. Trust me - it may make you a whole lot happier. 

Here are some key takeaways that I learned: 


Our personal time is a space where we do things that make us who we are. Where hobbies are born, where we foster close relationships, where we ponder about our lives, where we get creative, where we step back and examine what is meaningful to us. At the end of life, it is the moments that happen in our personal space that stick with us, our friends and family. When we let screen time dictate how we spend our personal time, we are robbing ourselves of more meaningful possibilities. 


Are the apps that we are using enriching or contributing to our unhappiness? Apps that focus on health, relaxation, weather, reading, education, etc. are certainly beneficial to our personal growth. On the other hand, it has been shown that apps that focus on dating, social networking, gaming, entertainment, news, and web browsing don't make us happy when we spend three times longer on these apps than the prior. Start by gaining an awareness of how much time you are spending on certain apps. 


Alter states that one of the reasons we spend so much time on these apps that make us unhappy is because they rob us of stopping cues. A stopping cue is defined as a signal that it's time to move on to another task, to do something new and different. When we engage in apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, text messaging, and news, there are no stopping cues. Everything is essentially bottomless. The news feed rolls on, and we can't stop. When we introduce stopping cues (e.g. putting our phone away at the dinner table), temptation is avoided altogether. At first it may be hard, but you will get used to it.

As we step away from screen time, we overcome the withdrawal in the same way you would from a drug for instance. Then, as Alter puts it: 

"... what happens is, life becomes more colourful, richer, more interesting - you have better conversations. You really connect with the people who are there with you."

What are your thoughts on reducing screen time? Let us know in the comments below!


Alter, A. (2007). Why our screens make us less happy. Retrieved from

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