How to Gain Self-Control In A Smartphone Culture

Just today I went out for a drive and I’ve noticed several people on their phones while driving. Apart from increasing your risk of getting in an accident. I find most people are losing any sense of self-awareness. People like to scoff and exclaim “they are a multi-tasker” – OK.

Everyone wants it fast and they want it now. Everyone is told that they “deserve” it. People are fed lines like this and don’t seem to question it.

The smartphone is the ultimate distraction and communication tool. It can be used badly and for good.

There are great things about technology. But like anything else when using new tools, you can create progressions while also creating hindrances in adaptation. I think since we are still in the early stages of adapting to this “tool”, we are slowly deciphering ways to live with them.

It is a generation of zombies born on smartphones and computers. I wonder what we are to make of instant gratification and consumerism.

This is a topic I have covered before. But it becomes more and more pronounced as I see it in my day-to-day life.

I don’t think we can make gains in technology without losing something of humanity. For one, our attention span is probably getting thinner. We are becoming more impatient and losing self-control.

On second thought, maybe it is just magnified and more visible that we can see people picking up and using their “attention machines”.

It is easy to see the worst in others and point at it and ask “what are we doing here?” But to look at yourself seeing it and tweaking yourself to escape the problem is where you can begin to change yourself for the better.

Phones seem to be an utter distraction to most people and people lose themselves in this external flux.

There is clearly a level of poor self-control, addiction with smartphones and internet. Always waiting for whatever “ding” on a social account.

I’ve been doing some reading on this topic and the findings are quite fascinating. Poor self-control is often associated with poverty, low grade performance and overall achievement in life – irrespective of whether or not a person has high IQ.

That is why I mentioned in my Fasting for the brain and bulge article that exercise and diet education won’t lead people to a healthier lifestyle, for that – I would argue self-control is a far more powerful function.

Instant Gratification and Consumerism

I think people behind marketing fully understand the mechanics of man and it’s instant gratification lifestyle cycle. You can probably bet that R&D exploits this mechanism while data and facts are used to create passive zombie consumers.

People are easier to control this way too. It is almost as if marketing is design to lobotomize people of their frontal lobes – their higher brains. Making people more scatterbrained and utterly useless in face-to-face social situations – specifically with the newest generations.

If you are operating from a reptilian brain – the hindbrain – where you are just trying to seek out pleasures, there is little resistance. You become a more emotional, easily distraught, easily distracted – you are passive.

“The ever accelerating pace and informational crush of modern life will make forms of unthinking compliance more prevalent in the future.” Robert Cialdini, Author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

It can be argued there is culture of control that is being handled by it’s pleasures and indulgences, akin to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. People are getting owned by what they love, to the point where it becomes abusive and obtrusive.

It’s easier to consume when people lack will, self-control. It gives in to the money machine when you have automatons, that behave out of impulsion and lack cohesion of will.

We tell ourselves, we won’t do this or that next time, but it falls flat.

Whenever we experience pleasure it is known that we get a boost of dopamine. Looking at the science we have come to understand that peoples compulsions may lead them abuse these dopamine receptors. One gains a dependence to whatever the compulsion and it can be catastrophic if it is the wrong kick ie. the wrong kind of drugs.

Consumerism can be argued to be increased when the population’s self control is lower. Simply because there will be an increase in illogical/irrational behaviour. People will be marketed and targeted whatever can be provided with the fastest results avoiding anything long term or residing the future.

Loss of self-control terminates the idea of future in a sense. I like to tell people to live in the moment but this not what I mean at all.

It seems like a challenging downward spiral when it comes to poor self-control.

Delayed Gratification With Children

Behavioural research in self-control are remarkable. Specifically with children, as they lack the most self-control as their prefrontal cortex has not developed. They would ask the child if he wants eat one treat for the day ie. a donut or candy. Secondly, they ask them to wait and later they will have double the amount. A true exercise in delayed gratification. Amusing to see.

Delayed Gratification is a pretty good measure of intelligence and willpower.

Gain a sense of control

If you want to gain a sense of control you can do the following:

  • If you want to get away from your temptation. Lets say internet addiction or smartphone abuse – take a break from your digital self. How far can you take it? Just Get Away From It All for a bit.
  • Write down your goals, writing a contract, writing your objectives on a calendar or in your notes would surely improve effectiveness – to keep your mind on a track.
  • Make it a hassle to use instant gratification. If you set up obstacles or restraints you are less likely to need them. It’s an inner struggle and confrontation but once done repeatedly it strengthens and is easier to do.
  • Reward yourself along your discipline. Do something along with the habit. Treat yourself before, while or after you have disciplined yourself to overcome the obstacles and impulsion that distracts you. For instance, say you have a solid workout, then finally after that you can have enjoy a delicious protein-smoothie/shake for example.

Self-Control As Virtue

Self Control is like a muscle. Like strenous excercise and the muscle – It has been discovered that we also need glucose in order to have proper judgement and self-control in situations we need it.

We need fuel for any other activity, why wouldn’t we need for self-control? Using the higher regions of our brain we exercise the will to do or not.

People like to make this argument, “oh but aren’t we less free to do the pleasurable things we love? ” “You are being holier than thou” ” I NEED my phone. I can’t live without it.” etc.

I look at that argument and I only think that if anything pleasure and vice controls you. You don’t have control. When pleasures consume you, it’s no longer pleasurable. It is eating your time away, eating your life away. When pleasures are abused it can easily control you.

” A good man, though a slave, is free; but a wicked man, though a king, is a slave. For he serves… as many masters as he has vices.” – Saint Augustine

Poor self-control and indulgences seem to be glorified in entertainment and media, perhaps because seeing these kinds of behaviours and images makes people feel better about themselves and see it as normal.

“YAY!! Everyone’s doing it!” But the public is not the pinnacle of wisdom.

It as if the boat is titled to prevent people from running across and accessing the controls, control of themselves and of their life. Spend and consume.

How quickly “Just This Once” can become vice.

Understanding self-control as a virtue is important, it was often promoted in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. It is a true way to live.

If we had virtuous philosophers or people in general promoting self-control in media and entertainment maybe there would be a shift in consciousness. But as far as indulgences are seen as joyous and promoted as the ideal it will be more difficult.

How amusing it would be to have bars and percentages across the top of people’s head that display their self-control.

The implications of self-control are imperative. It can be detrimental to one’s well being, their state of living – quality of life etc.

Just my thoughts on this issue being faced by people nearby.

We must flex our self-control.

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7 thoughts on “How to Gain Self-Control In A Smartphone Culture

  1. Reblogged this on imnotthatbad and commented:
    I found this article quite interesting. Actually, I found it interesting enough to force my already fragile attention span to keep on reading after the third line.

    I found specially remarkable the following lines: “…Poor self-control is often associated with poverty, low grade performance and overall achievement in life – irrespective of whether or not a person has high IQ… That is why I mentioned in my Fasting for the brain and bulge article that exercise and diet education won’t lead people to a healthier lifestyle, for that – I would argue self-control is a far more powerful function.”

    Give it a try; it’s worth the 3 minutes you’ll be away from your phone.


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