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December 11, 2017

Digiphrenia: Do You Suffer From It?


Digiphrenia – sounds serious – and it is, though you won’t die from it, at least not directly.

Digiphrenia was coined by Douglas Rushkoff in his 2013 book titled, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. The word is the combination of digi- for digital, and phrenia for “disordered conditions of mental activity.”

Digiphrenia is the mental struggle of trying to exist in the real world and digital world simultaneously. We now split our attention between these worlds more and more. And, we don’t do it well. You can think of digiphrenia as self-induced ADD related to the addictive use of digital media. It leads to a continuous state of partial attention. We are kind of there in the moment (real world), yet we are not because of digital distraction (digital world).

There is an ongoing digital battle for our attention that keeps our brains in hyperdrive. Many of us go through day constantly distracted by the never ending competition for our attention. Our brains are in a state of constant processing of information of all types. In short, our brains rarely shut down anymore.

Our computers, smart phones, emails, news feeds, social media, and more all compete for our attention. These digital media distract us from our tasks and goals. We now live in a state of continuous partial attention scanning our digital environments looking for something better to grab and hold our attention than whatever it is we are currently doing. We use digital media to look for something better.

Let me share with you some statistics.

These statistics come from the program Insane Productivity by Darren Hardy. Mr. Hardy is a serial entrepreneur and served as the publisher of Success magazine, which afforded him the opportunity to interview many of the most successful people in the world including Steve Jobs (Apple), Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines), Joel Osteen (Lakewood Church), Elon Musk (Tesla and PayPal), Jack Welch (GE), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Steve Wynn (Wynn Resorts), and many others. Mr. Hardy has taken what he has learned from these uber successful individuals and has developed several training programs that you can learn more about at DarrenHardy.com.

The uber successful share a universal trait. Intense focus. They only focus on one or two goals at any time. They maintain such intense focus because they do not allow themselves to be distracted by ANYTHING that pulls their focus away from the present goal(s). They avoid distractions.

Steve Jobs spent three hours a day just thinking about the next product idea. Joel Osteen spends virtually all his time each week preparing and practicing his weekly 22 minute sermon – which is why he is nearly always flawless in his delivery of it. The other functions of the church he delegates to other.

In short, the uber successful spend most of their time on the one or two essential functions that yield the greatest results. You heard of the 80/20 principle, right? Well the uber successful have taken that concept one step further. They have taken it to the 99/1 level.

For every 100 great opportunities that are brought to me. I say “no” 99 times.  Warren Buffet

People think focus means saying “yes” to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying “no” to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. Success is saying “no” to 1000 things.  Steve Jobs

This means saying “no” to distractions.

Don’t be distracted. Stay focus on your goals. A distracted mind is the ultimate hallmark of digiphreniaYou cannot allow yourself to be bombarded and distracted.

Now finally to the statistics.

The Scope and Depth of Digiphrenia

  • The average teenage exchanges 4,000 texts a month or one text for every 6 minutes they are awake.
  • 53% of individuals check email while driving (keep in mind the number reflects only those who are honest).
  • 61% check email on vacation.
  • Office workers check email up to 40 times per HOUR!
  • 67% check their phone/email for messages even when not receiving an alert.
  • 75% use their phone in the bathroom.
  • 30% never go to the bathroom without their phone.
  • 69% cannot go to sleep without checking their emails.
  • 43% check email in the MIDDLE of the night.
  • 35% check their phone before getting out of bed.
  • 30% routinely check email/phone at the dinner table.

We no longer notice what is right in front of us because we are so easily distracted. Again, we live in a state of continuous partial attention.

Here is the real problem. It takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get your brain to refocus on the task at hand once it has been distracted. These 30-60 second breaks, if not longer, to check social media or email are not benign. Don’t believe me? Read this report.

That should probably tell you all you need to know about MULTI-TASKING. It doesn’t work. The uber successful DO NOT multitask.

Does anyone remember this quote from the character Charles Emerson Winchester on the television show M*A*S*H?  I do one thing at a time; I do it well; and I move onThat is exactly what the uber successful do.

Technology is suppose to make us more productive, but if we don’t control how we use it, it actually distracts and makes us less productive. Digital distractions are costly in the workplace. Employee distractions secondary to digital media cost a company $10,000 per employee per year.

Plugging into social media is addicting. Every digital mental stimulation triggers a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in addictions. Every text, email, “like”, tweet provides us with a dopamine jolt. That dopamine surge serves to reinforce our “need” for social media and technology no different than a chemical substance or gambling addiction.

Compulsive use of mobile phones, computers, and tablets is an addiction similar to sex, drugs, and alcohol.    John Ratey, Clinical Psychologist, Harvard University.


Digiphrenia has a close companion called nomophobia. Nomophobia is the fear of being without a mobile phone. Really! Look it up. How many suffer from nomophobia? Try 66% of the population.

Here is how much people love their smart phones.

  • 1/3 would give up sex,
  • 1/2 would give up caffeine,
  • 2/3 would give up chocolate,
  • 1/2 would give up exercise,
  • 7/10 would give up alcohol,

… before they would give up their cell phones. 

We have become addicted to our cell phones and other forms of digital media. When you look and analyze these numbers it’s hard not to conclude that we are becoming a rather shallow society and have lost focus on the more important things in life and being engaged in real world relationships..

Why We Look to Digital Media

So what propels this ongoing desire to find happiness or comfort through digital means? We have two driving forces.

  • We want to be wanted.
  • We fear missing out.

We have an overwhelming need to be accepted and the need to belong.

Be honest. Do you not get disappointed if you post something on social media and get no “likes” or “thumbs up?” Or, do you post something and then every five minutes you check to see if someone responded to your post in some way?  That is all a part of wanting to be wanted and and the need for attention. Do you yearn for that digital dopamine surge?

But, we also fear we are missing out on something presumed to be better than anything we are currently doing, so we frequently check-in to social media. We have to know what others are doing as well as what is going on in the world. We are spending more time watching other people live their lives and less time leading our own lives.

And, here is what is odd. We don’t want to miss out on what others are doing. We wonder if their lives are more interesting than ours. Yet we secretly hope our lives are better than the lives of all our “friends.” So we have to check in periodically to know for sure.

If you are happy with your life, then it doesn’t matter what others are doing, does it? Take steps to live the life you want.

Diphrenia: Don’t Let it Derail Your Life

Take some time and analyze your use of technology and digital media. Come up with a strategy to curb your use of digital media if excessive. Make your goals big enough so that you don’t have time paying attention to what others are doing in their lives, especially people who really don’t matter. Make your life worth living. Make technology work for you – not distract you.

Don’t worry about what others think about you, or even wonder if they think about you. Here’s why. Chances are nobody is thinking about you. We all want to be wanted. We all like attention. But, chances are – outside a special few – few people really care about you and what you are doing.

So don’t worry about them or what they are doing. Live your life by staying focused on your life and your goals!

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

  1. good article, enjoyed reading it, inspirational, particularly about the part about intense focus. i would NEVER get a smartphone, the ‘real’ world is the one outside, spend as little time as possible in the ‘fake’ world, it is your life, do what you want to do, don’t be swayed by what other people are doing, adverts are just there to get people to make money, it is your money, likewise your attention is yours – say ‘no’ often and ‘yes’ to the things you want to do or that are most important. also, be in the moment, we all spend too much time in the future, planning, wishing for the future to come.

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