We're all on the journey.
November 11, 2022
Productive Middle Ground: Clearing the Mental Chatter of Digital Overload

In today's episode of The Light Inside, award-winning productivity author and speaker Daniel Sih shares his secrets on how to unplug, unwind and think more clearly, empowering in the essential new sense of space-making.


In the rise of both our race for human evolution and within the context of that ever-popular television series “Star Trek” -

It once was viewed as the final frontier of our advancement as a species. Then began the dawning of a new age - the digital revolution.

A time and place that seemingly and somewhat insidiously began to occupy nearly every nook and cranny of our shared sense of spaciousness as a human collective. Much like the spiritual awakening of the 60s - We heralded it as the dawning of a new age of Aquarius.

A new Impetus in our ever-expanding sense of being as humans. Seeing it as more pertinent and portentous in significance than the invention of either writing or printing.


And then it happened…


We awakened to frequently find ourselves lost in these dark vestiges of a vast digital wasteland….Searching for the relative light of day - Our digital usage had become a behavior that had seemingly grown, at times, to be toxic in nature.

Discovering how we are living in a digital world - yet ever remain fairly resolute as analog creatures. And what we often find ourselves desperately in need of…is a simple method to digitally detox.

-If you find yourself in need of space to think deeply, rest more fully, and spend time with loved ones away from a screen, then this conversation is one you won’t want to miss.

Today we join Award Winning Productivity Author and Speaker, Daniel Sih as he shares his most intimate secrets on how to unplug, unwind, and think more clearly -empowering an essential new sense of “Spacemaking” in our lives.


In this episode you will learn:

1. The impact of digital technology on our ability to focus and think deeply.

2. The role of social media in shaping our understanding of gender roles.

3. The importance of making space for introspection and self-awareness.


Featured Guests:

Daniel Sih


JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM: @thelightinsidepodcast

SUBSCRIBE: pod.link/thelightinside

Credits: Music Score by Epidemic Sound

Executive Producer: Jeffrey Besecker

Mixing, Engineering, Production, and Mastering: Aloft Media Studio

Production Manager: Anna Getz

--- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/thelightinside/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/thelightinside/support


This is the light inside. I'm Jeffrey Besecker. Space in the rise of both our race for human evolution and within the context of the ever-popular television series Star Trek, it was once viewed as the final frontier of our advancement as a species. Then began the dawning of a new. Age, the digital revolution.

A time and place that seemingly and somewhat insidiously began to occupy nearly every nook and cranny of our shared sense of spaciousness as a human collective. Much like the spiritual awakening in the 60s, we heralded it as the dawning of a new age of aquarius, an impetus in our ever-expanding sense of being as humans seen it as more pertinent and portentous in significance than the invention of either writing or printing. And then it happened. We awakened to frequently find ourselves lost in those dark vestiges of a vast digital wasteland, searching for the relative light of day. Our digital usage had become a behavior that had seemingly grown at times to be toxic in nature.

Discovering how we are living in a digital world, you ever remain fairly resolute as analog creatures. And what we often find ourselves desperately in need of is a simple method to digitally detox. So if you find yourself in need of space to think deeply, rest more fully, and spend time with loved ones away from a screen, then this conversation is one you won't want to miss. Today we join award-winning productivity author and speaker Daniel Sih as he shares his most intimate secrets on how to unplug, unwind and think more clearly, empowering in the essential new sense of space making. Throughout our lives when we return to The Light Inside.

In the knowledge economy, information has become our most valuable commodity. These days, it's available in almost infinite abundance, delivered automatically to our electronic devices were accessible with a few mouse clicks. Since Gutenberg information overload has been a problem, movable type led to a proliferation of printed matter that exceeded what a single human mind could absorb in a lifetime. The photocopier and carbon paper made replicating existing information even easier. And once information was digitalized, documents could be copied in limitless numbers.

Besides digitalized content, digital technology also made. It possible to publish new information, which was once impossible without the printing press. Nevertheless, as we have continually allowed that. Space to become progressively more cluttered, we. Often find our bandwidth for any new information to become inhibitive, limiting our ability to focus on much of anything meaningfully significant.

Growing up as a child of the mid 70s, many of us have witnessed the evolution of both personal computing and the internet. Firsthand, and for an ever increasing number of youth, a smartphone has become the first and only computer they own. In a quest to both fit in and conform to the demands of our. Increasingly tech savvy society, we reach for. The aid and infinite availability of digital technology.

Then it happens. The need for conformity often becomes a. Jailer of freedom and the enemy of our growth. It is within this view we begin to shed light on just how we form a new, healthier, and more fulfilling awareness of how we leverage digital technology on our journey of personal growth and evolution. Research has shown that despite our consistent usage of digital technology, less than 1% of the data consumed in either our personal lives or businesses is analyzed and turned into productive benefits.

The flood of information that swamps us daily seems to produce more pain than gain. In short, the entire world and beyond. Is right there at our fingertips. Yet, as a collective, we still struggle. To effectively leverage this data as an integral asset.

There's hope, though. Intuitive tools and techniques promise relief from information overload. For example, certain technological solutions can help regulate or divert the tide of incoming emails, such as software that sorts and prioritizes it automatically. Others prevent drowning by changing the way people think and behave. It is possible that someday we will enjoy swimming in the powerful currents of information threatening to submerge us.

Now, in the meantime, we join today's guest award-winning productivity author Daniel Sih, as he shares thoughtful tips on how to engage in an effective digital detox, as published in his recent book space how to Unplug, Unwind, and Think Clearly in the Digital Age. Daniel, social media has undeniably exploded over the last couple of decades, the impact and meaningfulness monumental. Yet there is often a more insidious and dark side to our Internet use. Light inside, of course, is our theme today. We're going to look at the dark side in some regards and how we can bring that back into the light.

So you are the author of Spacemakers How to Unplug, Unwind and Think Clearly in the Digital Age, as well as having the upcoming book Raise Tech Healthy Humans how to Reset Your Children's Tech Habits and Give Them a Great Start to Life. Today, we're going to focus our energy on looking at those patterns in our Internet and social media use and how sometimes those patterns fall into the negative and hinder our personal benefit. So let's start with that burning question. Daniel, if we might. Why did you choose to write about making space in the digital age?

Yeah, thanks. And thank you for having me on this podcast. My passion for helping busy people make space has been here probably for about 15 years, so even before the true digital explosion and we all became addicted to instagram. And yet, obviously, I've written about making space in the digital age because so much of the space that's taken up in our work and our lives and our heart, our heads, is because of our habits. When it comes to technology, whatever space we have, when we're at the supermarket or on the bus or even just on the toilet, we reach for our phone sometimes, and we use up all the time.

We could just think and reflect on who we are, or let our minds wander or be creative. We're taking up that space with tech. So we are in a particular point in history where space is even more precious. But really my passion for making space probably began with my own story, actually, where I struggled with space and I almost burnt out. Should I share that with the audience?

Yes, let's share that. Let's share that for reference today. Yeah. So, because I was in my thirty s, I went to hell. What I am now, I'm in my mid 40s now, and when I was in my early thirty s, I was pretty busy.

I mean, I'm a type A personality now, I'm a serial entrepreneur, and I love work, I love life, actually, and yet I was burning the candle at both ends. And I was a physiotherapy manager. I was a physiotherapist we might call a physical therapist in the state, and I managed a whole heap of health sites. I was building my own house, I was starting this little business and a number of other things with my church community. And basically I found myself not sleeping very well, and I felt worried.

And I had young kids, so that's terrible for you to sleep generally. And the symptom for me was that I started being breathless. So I started to find that I was breathless at meetings and breathless standing in front of people at work, and then I became breathless at the dinner table, and then even breathless one night when I was reading like a children's book to my young kid. And I'm like, wow, there's something wrong with me. And so I had all these tests, and the doctor said there was nothing wrong with my heart, there was nothing wrong with my lungs.

And then he heard about the way I lived, and I think he didn't say there's no space, but essentially he said there's no space or margin in your life, that you're living beyond your means, you're treating yourself like a superhuman and not putting limits in your life. And it's close to burnout. And I was really thankful, actually, that I was lucky to have a friend, a close friend, who was similar to me. And he did burn out only about three or four months before I started getting breathless. And he was so unwell that he ended up in hospital.

And it probably took three or four years for him to be able to recover. And he never had the capacity he used to have after that. And so I saw the trajectory of where I was heading if I didn't change and make space and margin in my life. And so it was a wake up call. And obviously then I got a coach, I dropped some work, I changed some commitments, I made some hard decisions about our finances to earn less and to live more.

And that began the journey, particularly for me. Starting to think about what might it look like to put space in my life, to think deeply, to rest fully, to reconnect with loved ones in a meaningful way and to love my work, but to make sure that I put self care in first before I put in clients and activity. And to learn to work from a place of rest. I love the Light Inside as your title. For me, I think I learned to live from the inside out rather than the outside in.

To not be a pancake person, thin and wide, stretch, but to somehow allow my inner life to shape my outer life. And that was a journey of learning those patterns and rhythms. So for me, that was when I started to embrace space and our society and our world needs space more than ever before. And obviously nowadays we need to look at the intersection of that space with digital technology and how we're using our devices. That had to be such a scary, stressful place to find yourself.

Yeah, it was funny because I've never seen myself as an anxious person. Definitely I had a lot of insecurities as a child, but as an adult, I wouldn't say I would say I'm anxious. And yet this is how anxiety and stress played out in my life, and so it was just a wake up call. And I think maybe it's a guy thing, or maybe it's just a human thing. Sometimes it takes a while to work out what the symptoms are when we're experiencing sleeplessness or tiredness or we're irritable or we're feeling disappointed or angry.

I love how Richard Ross says that anger is actually deep sadness in most men. And if you're really angry, it's probably because you're sad and you haven't known how to deal with that. And so it's funny, sometimes the feelings that we have take a while to work out, and that was the stress, because I'm like, this is wrong, and my world is kind of close to falling apart, and I'm becoming someone I don't want to be. And I was being angry and irritable and lost my humor and just not nice to be around. And I would hate to think what would happen if that just continued.

But I'm very grateful for the opportunity to stop and make the space to understand myself and therefore be able to walk with others, actually, not just by myself, not as an individual, but walk with others to help improve who I am and experience space in that place. From that aspect, it's a great angle to perhaps lean into a little bit today and how our digital usage or digital interaction influences us in that manner. Specifically, when we come to looking at stereotypical gender roles in that regard, we're feeding ourselves and exposing ourselves to that level of social comparison. First and foremost informing our understanding of what it means to simply be of the male gender yeah, look, that is. A fascinating conversation and I do think that social media is an echo chamber and it's not even the echo chamber of social media.

I think one of the problems in our age with technology is we don't have the space for our mind to think our own thoughts. We think other people's thoughts. So one of the practices in Space makers I don't want to go too fast into the kind of practices, but it is to create space, let's say to book in your day by charging your phone outside of your bedroom to start an end of the day without a phone. So that the first thing you do in the morning isn't rich for Gmail or Instagram or Twitter or listen to bad news from the Ukraine. It's actually to wake up.

And for me, I pray. I think about my day, I just practice thankfulness in my head. I think my own thoughts and not hear other people's thoughts. And when I go to sleep, similarly, I read a physical book and I talk to this person who's lying in bed next to me who used to play Candy Crush and I used to check emails at 11:00 at night. And I'm having a relationship with Sih more than I am with my wife.

And I just those moments of space are really precious. And so I think if we always fill our mind with other people's thoughts, even podcasts if you always fill your mind with podcasts and interviews and audio books, but you never have any time to reflect on what the information means in your life and what you believe about it and how you might actually live it out, well, then you're just filling yourself up like a sponge that never squeezes anything out. And I think that's where the gender stereotype becomes a problem because we just don't know who we are. We live by other people's scripts, we live by other people's noise. So we need to have patterns where we're off and patterns where we're on.

And then the digital technology world and the wonder of having all this information at our fingertips becomes a blessing rather than a bit of a curse. Having that bandwidth and space for introspection looking inside, as you mentioned, is so essential in every area of our life. How then, jumping right in might we determine when our healthy and functional use of digital media has gone off the rails in some regard? Great question. There's probably two ways to answer that.

Let me answer from a personal perspective and then I'll look at the research from a personal perspective. I think it's pretty simple. Turn off your phone for a day and see how you feel. Seriously. Like if you were to have a heart check or an experiment on yourself, treat yourself like a guinea pig or a little rat and make yourself have one day on the weekend with absolutely no technology.

So no phones no laptops, no iPads, no Netflix. And just see how you feel. Think about your thoughts. It's called metacognition. Reflect on what goes through your mind.

Think about what happens to your hand when you keep reaching for your pocket and you keep thinking, oh no. Where's the stimulation? Typically what I find is the symptoms of digital overuse where you're probably drifting towards too much. Check that your thoughts are distracted. You really can't just enjoy silence for 15 minutes without wondering how can I check something on Google or look at a social media newsfeed?

It's where you find yourself increasingly busy and getting lots done, but running to stand still. Like the stuff you're doing isn't focused and you're hard to get in the zone anymore. You don't have that ability to have deep work, to really concentrate or to be creative because you lose your creativity if you're listening to other people's thoughts and not having the time for your mind to wander and for. You to discover connections in your own brain or another symptom is if you just find it hard to be in front of real people and you lose the ability to enjoy a conversation without having to check your phone and talk to someone who's in the distance. And so these are kind of the symptoms of a society going mad, I think, with distraction.

But the only way to test it is by disconnecting a bit like an alcoholic, you stop drinking and then see how you feel. And then from there, take that data, that sensory data and that emotional data, the feelings and emotions you experience and the thoughts. And then start to reflect on what's great about technology in my life. But where are the areas where I need more space to be able to think and rest and be human? So that's my personal reflection.

I might talk about the research. Is that alright? Sure, let's look at that research. Yeah. So from a research perspective, the best model I think is, and I've written this up in my book because I'm a productivity person, that's my background.

So I looked at the question, what is the connection between being highly productive and using technology? And imagine a graph where you have technology on one side and the other axis is productivity or the other way around you. And so you need to use, you need to use technology to be productive. If you use technology, get a phone, use the internet, get out, you clearly are more productive in every field of life. And since we need it and that's why we use it so much, but we're almost told in our culture that if you use technology endlessly, you'll be endlessly productive.

And that the solution to all of our problems is more technology. When a lot of the problems are because of the technologies we're using. And so we end up in this kind of hamster wheel of solving problems that were created by technology and then using technology to solve those problems. So they need to solve those problems again. And so there's a point where it's not a linear relationship.

What it is, it's actually an upside down you curve like many systems in biology where you need technology to be productive, then there comes a plateau, which I call the productive middle, where using more technology doesn't make you more productive. It just reached the point of limited returns. But then if you keep using more technology, if you're reaching for your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night, if you are unable to have any time to reflect or to connect or to just be still and silent without habitually reaching for a device. If you are literally online all the time, you drift into what we call digital overuse and you slide down the right hand side of that curve and you start losing your health, your happiness and your productivity because you're overusing technology. And this is what we're seeing post covered, that all of society is now drifting to the right hand side of the curve.

And so we now need two sets of productivity skills to be highly productive because the secret is to hit that productive middle that makes sense. And so we need the habits of keeping pace, which the habits of keeping pace are about learning to use tech really well and increasing your tech skill and your tech adoption and your tech savvy so that you maintain the cutting edge of using tech. That's the left hand side of the curve skills. But then the habits we need as well at the same time are the habits of making space, which are habits of intentionally unplugging from devices and learning to retrain our brain to single tasks. Learning to enjoy the simplicity.

Of relationships or just the ability to look at a cloud and be still enough to enjoy the pleasure and beauty of everyday life without feeling like you need a dopamine hit from some digital distracted mechanism overseas. And so I think we are massively underplaying the habits of making space, which is the productivity skill set for life and for humanity. And that's what I wrote the book about. It's interesting to me to look at that aspect of becoming an anomaly in our behavior with it leaning into that emotional attachment, that compulsion which at its height does it not become addiction. And sometimes that dopamine hit being the rush ultimately that's driving it.

There was a fascinating set of studies by a guy called Timothy Wilson at the University of Virginia and this really woke me up to what's happening in my life and the lives of people around me. And he wanted to find out how people thought about their own thoughts. So he got them into a room for like, six to 15 minutes and took away all their devices and stimulation and basically said, just think about your thoughts for 15 minutes. And then he asked them how they found it, and the majority of people said they found it painful, which is a fascinating description of being by yourself. And so he wanted to find out what they mean by painful.

Like, how do you compare painful if it's an emotional pain? Does that make sense? I don't know how they got a six approval, but they started to zap people with electric shocks, which was so painful that people would pay $5 or more to not be zapped again. And then he put people in a room and he put an electrical kind of zapping machine there and said, I want you to sit and think about your thoughts for six to 15 minutes. Don't zap yourself.

But I suppose if you're really bored, and you're welcome to and 67% of men and 25% of women chose to give themselves painful electric shocks rather than spend six to 15 minutes thinking. Now we talk about, is our society addicted to dopamine? There's your answer. Is it the addiction to the dopamine? Or going a little further, and I.

Don'T know where you're comfortable with stepping into this. That triggered emotional trauma that's stored in our autonomic system, the polyvagal lab. I think they're connected. We do that with our own emotions so often, there has to be, from my perspective, a little correlation there. I absolutely agree, and I think this is what I see as the connection.

It has always been hard to do self-reflection. I mean, human emotions are difficult to deal with, which is why the mystics, and all religions have said that silence and solitude is a critical steps to understanding God, understanding yourself, and understanding those around you because in silence, that's where we are forced to experience those painful thoughts. I love how Parker Palmer talks about the soul being like a shy, wild animal, like a deer. And it will only come out when you're silent. Quiet enough to kind of woo it out, like an animal documentary where you have to sit there for two days and then suddenly you see this beautiful animal pop out of the woods.

And that's like the soul. So you need the time to experience who you are, to feel those painful thoughts in order to then process those experiences, in order then to experience the beauty of silence and the wonder of being still and the knowledge that you're loved and accepted and okay, even if there's nothing in your life. So there's a process, and that's always been the case. The problem with our technology, so age today, is that we never have more than five or six to 15 minutes of undistracted time from a notification. And whenever those painful thoughts come up, we don't even see the deer.

We just look at the bush the deer is behind, and then we suddenly reach for our phone and we find out what's happening on the other side of the world. And so, yes, the dopamine hit is part of generating that desire to constantly feel something new. But the consequence of that is the emotions stack up, actually, and they build up, which is why I think young people are so anxious and why I think anxiety is becoming an epidemic because we just are not giving ourselves the space to deal with the stuff that's inside. So it's not that the technology causes the painful emotions, but it's kind of like it's a bit like putting a sticker on the petrol gauge of a car. Eventually the petrol run out no matter whether or not you have the sticker on it, it's just that you're not going to see it.

And that's what technology and dopamine is doing for our emotional health. That's how I see it. What do you think about that? There's a bit of a codependency, there a bit of a codependency in a lot of ways where we rely on that dopamine hit in that regard, co dependency in regard that we're depending on two different aspects. There's that dopamine hit and then there's that emotional element.

That emotional sense of attachment sometimes becomes reverse integrated and becomes detachment. We're detaching from the other emotions, the other stimulus in our environment from that regard, definitely. I agree. It's really hard. I don't mean to say this, I'm saying this very objectively and scientifically, but I seriously love email.

How sad is that? But I love what I do for work. I just constantly check it. And we are individuals in a big system and a culture that is completely tech obsessed, that hasn't taken making space seriously and hasn't seriously considered the impact of digital overuse. We're going to get there because eventually we have to.

So we're kind of riding the wave of the history of what tech can do for us without seriously understanding that the medium is the message and that there's a loss of humanity and health and wholeness when it's unbalanced. And so every one of us is in the system where it's the shareholders of Silicon Valley tech companies that are shaping the liturgy of our life, not ourselves. You might use different apps than me, but essentially it's all behavioral conditioning and notifications, so we shouldn't get hard on ourselves. The last thing I would want to do is to add guilt or layers of emotional pain because you feel bad for using your phone too much. All of us do that.

But I do want to encourage people to have the liberation of unplugging and learning the beauty of having a more balanced life because there's actually a lot of joy in that. And then you get to enjoy technology more because you're mastering it rather than conquering you. And that's the heartbeat of this. In terms of what I write, it's not an anti tech book, I'm not an anti tech guy, but I am a pro life person. I love humanity and humanity is rich and broad and wide and amazing, and it cannot be contained to the online world, and we shouldn't contain it to that.

Otherwise we lose ourselves.

Although human life is priceless, we often act as if something had an even greater price than life itself. Yet guess what? Is this something? Love and work are thought to be the cornerstones of our humanness as. We perpetually busy ourselves in an attempt to fix both ourselves in this world, thinking if only we generate the right kind of human beings, the world will become a better place.

This itself is a task. I myself am susceptible as I spend countless hours surfing the Internet for additional data and information, hoping one day it. Will be of value. Yet might we frequently find ourselves discounting the inherent assets simply being presented in any given instance? How does this notion matter in regards to our conversation today?

We often for away large chunks of our time searching the Internet for a sense of value and meaning when those answers already lie inside. This is kind of a contextual aside, but so much of that media, so much of that format mirrors and reflects our humanness in many regards. It's interesting to me to reel in and kind of take this broad view of saying, why do we call what we're now terming artificial intelligence when it's really nothing more than an extension of our humanness? That's interesting for the Pondering today. I love it.

I love the question. I was really struck when I heard Elon Musk say that we are all Cyborgs now. And he said it in a way which is like, we should just get over it. Cyborg is like Darth Vader and the Terminator and RoboCop like these half-mechanical, half-human characters, and we're drawn to them because there's this humanity and Darth Vader, right, even if he's a robot, even though he's a Cyborg. And yet there's this dark side of these characters where we are also drawn to the power that they have, but we know it's not human because there are no limits.

I think we are actually like Cyborgs because we need our technologies, literally for everything. And in that sense, I think there's some beauty about it because we get the power of the Cyborg, we get to extend our knowledge. We get to communicate with a massive range of people. We couldn't do otherwise. I mean, you and I are talking from literally the other side of the world in real time, and I get to run a business in my wearing my Ugg boots, which I'm wearing now.

So it's cool being a Cyborg. Okay, yeah. But you wouldn't go to Darth Vader for relationship advice. You probably wouldn't go to him for understanding the soul and the beauty of the mystical life. There's an aspect of our humanity that is lost when we become Cyborgs, and it's usually the texture of real relationships, of the ability just to be simple and still.

And to be spiritual people, to be people who address the soul and not just what we produce on the outside, and people who actually value the beauty of weakness and rest and the need to slow down our limits and our inability to never stop, to say that we're enough. You know, I what mean. And the extra humanity is being lost when we become cyborgs. And so that's what people are feeling when they talk about zoom fatigue, when they talk about destruction. We're actually talking about a loss of some of what makes us human, but we haven't got a language in our culture to really describe it.

And we can't lose that because yes, I don't know, I think artificial intelligence, it is an extension of ourselves, but the medium is the message, as McLaughlin said. And so when you take the intelligence of a human out of a human, it's not actually human because it doesn't have the complexity of emotions and irrationality as a beautiful woman. You know what I mean? So in that sense it is, but it's not. And this is where technology can get.

Us unstuck in that regard of looking at how that somewhat might polarize us and put us in somewhat of that experience of being a cyborg. At the risk of sounding somewhat nihilistic in many regards, there's always been that duality of our humanness and dehumanizing behaviors that we've engaged. How do you feel, Daniel, from that perspective? The digital age might be exasperating that or speeding it up. Yeah, I mean, it's interesting.

We love the Terminator, those types of movies, because of the paradox of how can you love a robot and how can a robot love you and all that kind of stuff. I have these two visions of the future and I'm not sure which one will play out. On the one hand, I do think we're going to reach a digital saturation point. We're already there, but I think we're going to see a mass wake up where enough people start to say, I'm in the right hand side of the curve. They won't use that language unless they understand the research, but they'll be like, I just miss climbing trees and baking cakes and I don't know, just mooching around with my friends.

There's something that's missing in the life that I live and I'm just never steal anymore. And I miss being with people as much as I like working from home. And I think there's going to be there's a free range kids movement. I think it's going to be a free range adult movement. And so there's always a reconnection when you go too far in one direction as a society.

And I think we're going to see some of that recollection, although, unfortunately, I suspect it'll be another thing that polarizes rich and poor. I suspect that what I'm already seeing is that lower socioeconomic people won't have the advantage of disconnecting and richer people will. And so it might also polarize us in that way, but I'm hopeful for that. But then again, I'm also concerned in my apocalyptic self thinks that maybe we're so far gone that we don't have the younger people have not experienced the things that I've just described ever, because they grew up on Minecraft and they never played basketball, you know what I mean? And maybe they won't have a reference point.

So those feelings of anxiety and being out of control will be there, but you don't know what to do with them. And if enough of us are addicted and if enough of us are sidewalk-like, well, then where do we go? Let's just keep adding more technology to solve the problems of what we're feeling. But that's what's causing a lot of the problems in the first place. So I hope it's the first vision of the world and we return and enjoy tech and humanity at the same time.

Interesting to look at that effect in children as you're stepping up to this new book, that inability to disconnect and turn within it's astounding to see take the video games away from a child. You shut down the Internet, how we actually have to police that and literally shut down the WiFi, pull the plug, whatever, and a kid goes completely berserk in a lot of cases. They don't know what to do with that energy. Yes, and look, I've tried to make my new books raising Take Healthy Humans. It's a positive manifesto and it's very practical.

There are lots of great books out there that teach us why kids and their brains aren't coping with early interactive technology use. And I do talk about it to an extent at the start of my book just to give the background. But then the rest is a vision for life and how you might experience hopefully less tech but more life. But in terms of the question of what happens when you take away that's a great example, take away games, and to see the kids literally crash, they come down like an amphetamine addict. It's because of their digital technology, particularly interactive media so the kind of flashing lights which are designed like poker machines, the variable rewards like in Fortnite and Minecraft, where if you just keep digging, you might randomly get a diamond or the hearts and likes of social reinforcement that come from social media.

All of that is deliberately and specifically designed with billions of dollars of research to ramp up the fight and flight part of a kid's brain, the part of the brain that is raw and emotional and experiential at the expense of helping them develop the prefrontal cortex, which is about impulse control and thinking and learning and processing. What we definitely see in internet addicts, in teenagers is that they have less gray matter and less development of their prefrontal cortex because they're constantly hyping up the flight and flight mechanism. And a great book by dr. Victoria Duncley, she took 500 kids who had been diagnosed with things like bipolar or ADHD, various other pathologies or neurodiversity and took them off of technology in a graded way. And I think she said that 80% of her clients had more than a 50% reduction in symptoms.

And also Dr. Nicholas Cadras, who wrote about kids say that gaming is a bit like amphetamines for kids and they are crashing. You know you get this desire for a hit, you withdraw and you crash. So you end up with these terrible behaviors. So you're actually just describing the mechanism of these games.

And it's why we need to be particularly sensitive with introducing gaming and iPhones and iPads interactive technologies for kids when their brains are really young and really plastic and really developing, particularly before they're eight years old. Looking at that aspect you mentioned before about the polarizing nature of digital media from that regard, what role do you feel social comparison plays in our media consumption both as kids and adults and what impacts might that have both adverse and beneficial? I want to look at both sides of that coin. A multi level question. It's always bond, isn't it?

I love social media because it allows me to grow my business and stay connected. And there are people I don't talk to that I can talk to and hear from through social media.

I think we're more and more aware of the negatives of social media. There is now that pushback that you curve. I'm seeing that in the social media area watch you shows like The Social Dilemma and there's a popularization now of some of the issues related to tech. But I would like to speak into this space a different message actually, because I agree with all that. I agree that social media is like incredibly destructive, for example, for teenage girls, which is what the research is saying in their mental health.

However, I think we should start with a positive vision of humanity again, which is where I usually come from, because the reason we're drawn to social media isn't because of technology, it's because we love relationships and we are essentially tribal people who care about others and who need social contact. When you look at the research and there is so much long term research from so many decades on this, one of the most important things we can do for our health and happiness is to experience broad and rich and regular relationships with people in our lives face to face. In fact, one systematic control study, it was amazing looked at all the studies that have been done on health and happiness and mortality, on how long you live and if you breathe fresh air. So if you live in where I live rather than, I don't know, Jakarta, you will live a little bit longer. If you have cardiac rehab after you've had a heart attack, you live a bit longer.

If you exercise regularly. Clearly you live longer still. If you give up smoking, you also live longer. And at the very top of the list, the best thing you can do to live a long life, and it surprises me again and again, is to spend time regularly with people in your life, broad relationships and deep relationships that is better for your health than not smoking or exercising. And so even people with cancer end up living longer when they are visited by people in person that they love, because the genes that modulate health and healing are activated in the presence of loved ones.

So I think we've massively undercooked the conversation about how important people are. And that is the starting point, because that's what makes us healthy and happy and whole. Then if you want to add the social media conversation to that, well, what's happening is we're replacing face to face relationships, we're replacing hanging out at the pub or the football club or the basketball court. We're not going to churches. We're replacing human interaction on a regular basis and we're replacing it for social media.

It's not and it's not both. And it's actually a replacement because in terms of the way we're spending our time, because we have so little time, we are actually doing less face to face time than ever before and more on screen time. So the question is, does social media replace the benefits of in person interaction on your health, your happiness and your wholeness? And the research is absolutely clear. No, it doesn't replace the benefits of being with people.

In fact, it probably has quite a negative effect. Instagram probably makes you very body aware and is bad for teenage girls. Twitter probably makes you start to think in soundbites rather than understanding the complexity of life because of the medium. So it's probably negative, but it's definitely not positive in the way that people are. So we need to reclaim the vision of humanity that is communal and connected and together without screens, and then put social media in that context.

And I think that's the only way we're going to win this battle against social media being used in an unhealthy way. We have to start with the greater yes, as Stephen Kobe says, and then we can say no. That's such an interesting aspect to step into today, as you and I bridge across the waters, so to speak, around the other side of the world. We are able to have this interaction, yet it's such a contextualized interaction, devoid of those nuances and integrative complexities. That sense of being able to feel that energy together in and of itself is one of those greatest things where we miss out in that digital connection.

There's somewhat of a wall, there a false security, I'll say, that we can hide behind in a lot of ways. Some of that being we can put forth different aspects. Just looking at a meeting, we can be sitting there and it's business up top, but we're sitting there in our Undershore from the bottom and as long as that screen is divided in Blip, we're two divided people. So in that regard, do we fully engage our authenticity? In that regard, there are benefits.

Again, it's both. On the one hand, I love this conversation because I get to meet you and I get to hear about how you ask amazing questions. We had a conversation before and your insights are incredible. So I get inspired by your brain and I'm seeing you. So I'm building a relationship to an extent, but I'd love to give you a hug, Jeffrey and I just can't give you a hug.

There's no warmth. There.

Actually exchange of chemical just the chemical energy in the room being to actually feel the vibration and nuance in our voice is somewhat stifled to different. It's so focused and it's less cerebral because we don't get that fullness and richness of space and nuance. And I think we need both. If we get both, it works well. During Pandemic Lockdown, I started an organization and it was one of those entrepreneurial ideas and it was just a lot of fun.

And I started what we call hope groups where we would get people together in threes or fours and they would say, what are they thankful for? What's the challenge in their life? They would read stories of hope from the life of Jesus and they would commit to helping people in need and they would serve others. And it was just a way of people connecting. One of the things I noticed is when small groups of people got together online, there was this quick ability to be really honest and raw with each other because it almost feels like you're safer across the screen.

And actually some people lived in different countries and so there was this kind of safety that I won't bump into you in the street so I can share what's going on in my heart. So on the one hand I see that technologies like Zoom or FaceTime can increase our ability to be vulnerable and real and I think that's beautiful. But there's also a distance between that and a false nose. Like putting on your best self because you also want to see, you want those same people to be able to come to your house and watch if you do the dishes and see how you speak to your wife and see how messy your life is and to love you just as you are. And you don't get that with like Zoom.

And so again, it goes back to that productive middle. You want to use technology when it's great for work, for teams, for particular vulnerabilities and connections, or for getting stuff done, but you really have to have like coffees and lunches with people in your life as well. And that's where we need to focus our energy because if we don't we'll almost always be online. So that's why we need to make space. That's where we lose some of that richness in, crowd out crowd dynamic, where that kind of tribalism can interact in a lot of different ways, I'll put it that way, without trying to strive down either one of those paths.

Yes, tribalism is increased. I think with social media, you become left, you become right, you become this, you become that. And the echo chamber makes it far worse. Some of the most judgmental and intolerant people I know are the most progressive, educated people who just can't see another perspective except for the new perspective. Do you know what I mean?

And yet, at the same time, it also exposes us to people of different skin color and races and genders, ethnicities, and that opens our mind and helps us be more tolerant, but it can also make us intolerant people who aren't like us, who are tolerant, like us. Again, I think that's where we are a better society. When I'm in Australia, so I can only guess in the American context, but I think we're a better society when a Republican and a Democrat actually have a beer together on the front veranda of the house. I've moved through that with various family members myself, where that divide starts to tear open. I had a nephew who recently we kind of mended the offense in that regard because things we exchanged on the Internet created some rift.

He made the overture to say, hey, I feel this divide that's illustrative of how that space becomes counterproductive. How do we pull those individuals, those loved ones, back into our space? We have to step out from behind that screen, that wall that's holding us back sometimes, so we can have that big hug, that authentic connection. Absolutely. And I think in all of this, we've talked about a lot of both and conversations.

It's great to connect, and it's hard to disconnect. We can get a lot done by being a cyborg, and yet you lose something for your humanity. Kids need technology, and yet if you give them technology too early, it's actually bad for their development. And I think these are the conversations we need to have, which is why I care about making space. We need the conversations on both sides of that curve.

We need conversations about how wonderful the world is with digital technology, the way it is, and all the opportunities we have. But we also need much more robust conversations about, okay, where isn't this working? And then practically start to make shifts in our societies, in our workplaces, and in our individual lives, our family lives, so that we're making space for the fullness of humanity, not just time alone on a screen. Daniel, in that regard, I want to thank you for making the time to open that space today so we can just simply allow that window open to look inside. Thank you for sharing this conversation with me today.

I feel this has been such a truly enlightening and eye opening conversation for myself to consider. So thank you for sharing that with us. It's been such a gift. I really appreciate being able to speak on this show. I'm so grateful for you stopping in, my friend.

When the new book comes out, let's talk again. Let's look a little deeper into how. That usage impacts the next generation. That sounds brilliant. Let's have another conversation, part two.

Thank you my friend. We'll see you soon. Thanks, Jeffrey.

Modern technology has made it possible for us to access a wealth of information within our fingertips. In addition to making our lives easier, technology has also created new kinds of stress for each of us in the 21st century. According to this year's results from the EPA's annual Stress in America survey, more than eight in ten Americans are very attached to their personal gadgets, with 81% saying they are constantly are often connected to at least one device. About 18% of American adults believe technology is a significant source of stress, and 20% believing it causes the most stress. When it doesn't work.

The fact remains that technology is also an integral part of our lives, the most important reason or purpose for someone or something. Existence becomes the definitive source determining our motivational factors, factors that are many and abundant. Yet our reasoning has been shown at times to be infinitely biased and faulty. I'm hoping today's discussion sheds light on how each of us might remain both connected and contented as we seek to manage a healthy, balanced usage of technology. If you found this episode meaningful in forming a new relationship with our daily use of technology, please share it with a friend or loved one.

As always, we're grateful for you, our valued listening community, and we appreciate your constructive feedback. Please leave us a helpful review at www.thelightinside.us/reviews or drop us a recorded voicemail at the site as well. Our production team may even share your feedback as we create future episodes. As the upcoming holidays and the impending New Year arrives, our team at The Light Inside will take a short break to relish the time with our families, friends, and loved ones, as well as investing meaningful time in developing an amazing content schedule for the 2023 season of our show. Got a specific unconscious pattern of human behavior you'd like us to shine a light on?

Send us your thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. Our program grows as we share this energy together. Thanks for tuning in. This has been the light inside. I'm Jeffrey Besecker.

Daniel SihProfile Photo

Daniel Sih

Award-Winning Productivity Author



Daniel has 15 years experience working in senior leadership and strategic consulting roles across Australia and the UK. As a trainer, coach and keynote speaker, he has worked with CEO’s, executives, and other senior professionals throughout Australia and beyond, ranging from global corporations and businesses to universities and non-profits. He has a broad professional history, including leadership roles in physiotherapy, health management, project management and Christian ministry.

Daniel is an award-winning author — his book Spacemaker won the Australian Business Book of the Year 2021 (Personal Development) and a finalist for Best Technology Book and Best Cover Design.

Daniel is also an accredited Top 5 CliftonStrengths® coach with the South Pacific Strengths Network, and co-creator of Email Ninja eLearning®.

Daniel has 3 children, 18 chickens and is a founding Director of Spacemakers.