German molecular psychologist Christian Montag has been studying the side effects of digitalization for years. His latest book, “You belong to us! The psychological strategies of Facebook, Tiktok, Snapchat & Co.” (Blessing Verlag), explains the methods of the tech giants to keep users online as long as possible.
“An alcoholic is not addicted to the bottle, but to the content. It’s the same with the smartphone. It’s about the apps that cause problematic consumption. This can be Instagram, but also the e-mail account. Here, a differentiated view should help to recognize the real problems of one’s own online use at its core. The smartphone is not good or bad per se, and we cannot completely escape the digital world. From there, it’s important to analyze which digital areas are valuable and important to us, and which ones may be associated with problem usage for some people.”
Reclaim everyday structure
His tips: “For most people, radical solutions like complete online abstinence are not feasible for many reasons. But what can be done? First, my central thesis is that we need to recapture the everyday structuring that the tech industry has taken away from us with the data business model. Tech corporations want to keep us online as long as possible to get more data about us. This data reveals a lot about us and is highly interesting for the advertising industry. So how do we reclaim structure in everyday life? A wristwatch can help. But if you check the time on your cell phone, you’ll quickly be distracted by Whatsapp and the like. On the other hand, anyone who checks the time on their cell phone is quickly distracted by WhatsApp and the like.
Furthermore: “Regulate usage times for various platforms via “online alarm clock,” turn off push messages. Finding your own rules against constant interruptions can be helpful: For example, only check e-mails or messages twice a day at fixed times. That can increase your sense of well-being. I am convinced that we also need analog areas where we can switch off. Studies from psychology suggest that simply hanging out with your thoughts can be a creativity incubator. But that requires time without the constant barrage of smartphones.”