Author David Sax

Joy and Happiness in Real Life

“We don’t live in a digital world, and we relate to the real world deeply.
We create the world we want to live in.”
~David Sax, author of The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter

“Let digital media be a tool we use, not a tool that uses us.
Let the technology light our way instead of darken it.”
~Jean Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us

Want to be happier? Want to experience more joy? Spend more time in real life engaging in analog activities with people who matter to you.

David Sax and Jean Twenge, recent speakers on CMU’s campus, encouraged listeners to make a conscious choice about the amount of time they spend in the digital world compared to real life analog activities.

Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, spoke at the T.R. Johnson Speaker Series at the College of Education and Human Services on Wednesday, September 25. Twenge researches generational characteristics and attitudes, and her most recent book, iGen, explores the relationship between the amount of leisure time teenagers spend on digital media and their quality of life. Beginning around 2012, she noticed a sharp increase in the number of teenagers who reported that they had experienced loneliness, clinical depression, anxiety, and self-harm.

Twenge observed that the amount of time people spend on digital media has nearly doubled since 2006 likely due to smartphones and tablets.

According to Twenge, teenagers spend approximately 6 hours per day using digital media. That means they are spending less time sleeping, watching TV or movies, reading books or magazines, or spending time face-to-face with their friends.

Twenge recommended the following healthy behaviors to increase your sense of happiness:

  • Get seven to nine hours of sleep per night
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend using digital media
  • Make time for leisure activities such as spending time with friends, participating in sports, and reading.

David Sax, a bestselling author and freelance writer from Toronto, spoke at the Friends of the Libraries appreciation luncheon on Saturday, September 21. Sax realized that non-digital technologies experienced renewed growth at the same time smartphones and tablets entered the market. Despite the popularity of streaming music, online games, and digital cameras, analog technologies including record albums, board games, and instant photography have rebounded during the past decade. These trends are the subject of Sax’s book, The Revenge of the Analog.

Analog things give us joy. Displaying your physical record album collection or print book collection is more interesting than scrolling through virtual lists. Sax noted, “Your physical collections reflect who you are and provide a snapshot of your interests. Your friends can browse your collections and learn something about you, but they can’t do that with your digital collections.”

Creativity begins in the analog world. “Writing on paper is the fastest way to get ideas out of your head,” Sax explained. “There are no rules with paper, and your ideas are only limited by the edges of the paper.” Designers who work at huge Silicon Valley corporations such as Google, Twitter, Dropbox, and Pinterest begin their creative processes in the analog world using paper, sticky notes, or marker boards.

Analog games are just an excuse for getting together. A board game café in Toronto, Snakes & Lattes, has become a popular first date destination. Sax observed, “When you play digital games, you are just pushing buttons. In real life, you are bonding with each other.”

Both Sax and Twenge concluded that we need to use the best tool for the job. Sometimes that will be an analog tool, and other times that will be a digital tool. Spending more time in the real world than in the digital world is healthy and fulfilling. The renewed popularity of record albums, instant photography, and board games suggests people are intuitively following Twenge’s recommendation to make more time for real life leisure activities.

Every day at CMU Libraries, we observe students balancing analog and digital activities:

  • Students use the marker boards far more often than the digital monitors
  • Students use their laptops or library computers side-by-side with physical books and notebooks
  • Students tell us they prefer physical textbooks over e-textbooks
  • Nearly everyone prefers accessing journal articles online

We support students holistically in both realms.

On October 10th, in celebration of World Mental Health Day, and again during the last two weeks of the semester, Park Library will be hosting a de-stress zone on the second-floor atrium. You can participate in real life activities such as building with Legos, painting with stickers, walking a labyrinth, and cuddling with the ever-popular therapy dogs.

Stop by the Park Library to unplug or to plug in. It’s your choice.

Therapy Dogs Therapy Dogs

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