Once in a while you read an article that you just can’t get out of your head. I just had such an experience with an article written by Arnie Weissmann, Editor in Chief of a trade magazine I receive called Travel Weekly.
The article discusses the impact that the impact that digital connectivity has on our lives, comparing cell phone use by millennials to the cigarettes of the babyboomers. It certainly is an addiction, and any addiction comes at a price.
Researching this a bit further I listened to a speech given by Patrick Marsden, a 33 year old director of Travel for MaCher who has taken academic research to better understand the importance of taking a hiatus from digital connectivity.
Mr. Marsden says that half of millennials check their phones between 150 to 250 times per day, and that this behavior is a big reason for why millennials are 25% more likely to be depressed than babyboomers, and about 36% of babyboomers were so depressed during this past year that they were unable to function. 61% of college students have signs of anxiety and the average high school student in the US has the same levels of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950’s.
Why have this occurred? Mr. Marsden says there are numerous reasons - educational pressure, achievement pressure, being over educated in entry level positions, poor economy, achievement pressure, outrageous housing market, and the realization that they may never achieve the same quality of life that their parents had - even though they were brought up being told that they could be anything they wanted to, and feel entitled.
Mr. Marsden goes on to talk about a research program where a group of travelers were were invited to a trip to Morocco. The group were observed first in a hotel setting where they were all connected to their devices, then taken into a desert without them. It was remarkable how the dynamics of the group changed dramatically as soon as the members in the group were disconnected from the internet. Posture improved, there was more eye contact and people engaged in conversation at much greater rates.
The conclusion was that travel and a break from all digital media has profound mental health benefits and that spending money on experiences provides more lasting pleasures than purchasing material goods.