These are not your ideas, time flies because we already spend almost a quarter of a day ‘scrolling’ on the Internet | Technology | The USA Print

Time is not absolute. It is the phrase that is most attributed to Albert Einstein, and that he did not live the experience of scroll on the Internet and totally lose track of hours and minutes. He report Rolling State of 2022 He says that in Spain we spend, on average, five hours absorbed, with our necks bent, dragging our fingers across a screen. An activity that, according to the latest neuroscientific research, alters our perception of time that we feel is slipping from our hands, without us hardly remembering, a few hours later, what we have invested it in.

The engineer Aza Raskin created the scroll infinite in 2006. In 2018 he was guilty and repentant in an interview on the BBC because his invention was “a very addictive dynamic that did not allow the user to process the information they read. It’s like they spray behavioral cocaine all over the interface,” he said then. That’s why we forget almost everything. We scan but don’t read, we see but don’t look, we hear but barely listen. And time does its job, passes.

Hours go by differently when we roam the Internet. This is the conclusion of studies of Peter Tzu, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College. “Research in my lab shows that events seem to last longer when we pay close attention to them. This is because the brain does not have a clock to measure time and it judges by the information it has processed. When we pay attention, we process more information per unit of time, ”he explains by email from a flight from New Zealand to Los Angeles that is taking forever. The professor illustrates his idea with an example: “if we are about to hit a car from behind and cause an accident, we feel that events pass before our eyes in slow motion. This happens because we are alert, paying more attention, and processing more information than if we were relaxed or distracted.”

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Her first study on the perception of time is from 2004, three years before the iPhone and two before the scroll infinite. So his research focused on novelty, another circumstance that alters our idea of ​​time. “There is a temporal perception that is based on memory. We tend to accumulate more information and feel that time passes more slowly when we do something new. The memory of routine activities, for example, changing a baby’s diaper daily, fades very quickly. For this reason, although we remember that the first days of raising our children were long and exhausting, looking back, it seems to us that they grew very quickly.

This, the professor believes, demonstrates the role that lack of novelty plays in our perception of the passage of time. If things don’t happen and we don’t pay attention, it seems to us that everything flies by. “In hindsight we will only remember jarring, new and exciting experiences vividly, routine tends to fade quickly,” he says. Another piece of the puzzle is the attention we pay to the passage of time itself. The last minute before the washing machine stops, as we well know, will always be the longest of the day.

What happens to us on the Internet is a mixture of all this. “We can be very involved in a video game, and at that moment perceive that time passes slowly, but since we are not looking at the clock and many of our actions are repetitive, our memory will tell us, in retrospect, that the game has passed very quickly” . Our Instagram promises us a barrage of news every minute, but let’s go one step at a time. story to another without paying attention because they all look too similar. We barely remember anything. The experience of scroll is almost always the same. One day yes and another day too.

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A job well-known published in 2015 was the first to show how much we underestimate the daily time we spend on screens. So the authors calculated that our perception of the time we spent scrolling was below reality by 20%. Eight years later, other researchers suspect that figure may have fallen short. Subsequent studies have explored the alteration of temporal perception in video game and in Facebook. The measurements of the social worker Andrew Fishman with an exercise of estimation of the time with minors with problems of addiction to videogames estimate that children play between three and five times more time than they think.

If the scrolling experience is almost always the same, there are few new things to remember, and as soon as we pay attention we are faced with the perfect formula for time to slip through our hands.

Philip Gable, associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware, has shown in his experiments that when we are motivated, time seems to fly. “Scrolling is easy, it does not require any effort, it is designed so that we scroll without thinking for hours and hours, the promise of finding something new is what keeps us motivated to continue, but the reality is different, what we find is almost always the same , boring, emotionless, and we barely remember it. There is so much information to classify that we do not remember what we are leaving behind. There is no reason to do it.”

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For Professor Tse, the problem with spending hours absorbed on the Internet is that the more time we dedicate to “virtual occupations”, the more problems we will have to manage our real time, build personal relationships, or spend time in nature. “Social psychology has shown that the most rewarding thing in life is connection. To a person, to a job, to a place. And authentic connections are made by paying attention. There are no short cuts. With stronger connections we will start getting social rewards from real people instead of likes and pseudo rewards from online people we barely know.”

Almost anything is better than not being aware of the time we lose, this is how Professor Gable sees it, who approves using timers, alarms and the phone’s own statistics to at least know the hours we are dedicating to scroll without order or concert.

In the war of attention we will be the big losers if we continue giving our hours to wander, slaves of dopamine that provide us with small doses of stimuli from the Internet. Better to regain control and decide where we spend our time and where to look for the shot of pleasure that we deserve. And not in small doses.

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