If you spend too much time staring at screens, read this article

Today, most people are aware of the negative consequences of frequent screen use. News websites, social media, and apps are designed to make us dependent. The ability to concentrate and focus is weakened. Much suggests that excessive screen use may even make us lonelier. Here are six ways daily meditation counteracts the negative consequences of screen dependency.

The attention economy provides experiences, meditation emphasizes action

The attention economy offers users a continuous supply of something new, exciting, and stimulating. Apps and websites hook users through a combination of expectation and unpredictability. We check our emails, Facebook, or Instagram and experience a small dopamine release if something new and exciting has appeared. We chase an experience. In meditation, however, the value does not lie in what we experience but in what we do. The quality of meditation is determined by the repetition of the meditation sound, not whether what we experience is pleasant, unpleasant, exciting, or boring. We strengthen something within us other than the pursuit of what’s new and exciting. Through regular meditation, we find it easier to anchor ourselves despite changing moods or external surroundings.

Algorithms only trigger you. Meditation works through and integrates

Algorithms tend to emphasize content that provokes indignation, anger, an us-against-them feeling. Just look at the front page of the newspaper if you want examples. Clickbait titles appeal to the immature, speculative, sensation seeking in us. Social media operate in the same way. What we click on, we get more of. In meditation, we can also be “triggered,” but there we can work through and integrate the emotional content. When we repeat the meditation sound with a free mental attitude, we open up for an actualization process that brings residues in the mind to the surface. Regular meditation with a free mental attitude will lead us to encounter challenging content in the spontaneous activity. By continuing the repetition of the meditation sound in an effortless way, we can work through the residues within us and thus integrate the content. In the attention economy, we become prey to those of our emotions that are not integrated. In meditation, the unintegrated emotions become a resource that allows us to approach what has previously been inaccessible for working through.

The infinity of the algorithms captures you. The infinity of the mind may release you

“Infinite scroll” is the programming technique that allows the user to endlessly scroll down in an app or on a website without stopping. This means we spend more time on the app. Inventor Aza Raskin publicly apologized in 2019 for the invention. He is one of several programmers who have warned about the societal development the new technology contributes to. The spontaneous wandering mind has a corresponding “infinity effect”; it never ends, it’s always changing, and it always has something to tell us. In contrast to the endless scrolling on the internet, which can quickly leave the user with a sense of emptiness, the fragments in the spontaneous activity can tell you about your longings, desires, but also what you’ve applied effort to repress. By allowing the spontaneous activity, you can unleash more of your own potential, become familiar with your own limitations, while approaching more stillness and calm.

Screen use enhances multitasking and fragments the mind. Meditation unites and integrates

Some believe they are good at “multitasking” but usually, multitasking compromises the quality of what we do. As stated in an encyclopedia: “Because attention is a limited resource, performing multiple tasks simultaneously will generally result in reduced performance.” Screen use leads to more multitasking. Research shows, for example, that when reading a text on a screen, people usually spend more time, among other things, because they click on links along the way. Most of us have experienced intending to check something in our email. One impulse leads to another, and suddenly we have 6-7 tabs open simultaneously and have forgotten what we were originally doing. Meditation is a contrast to this. In meditation, we always have only one task to perform. We should repeat the meditation sound effortlessly. Admittedly, meditation can be complex. You engage with the flow of spontaneous activity in the mind, and you can feel multiple layers of emotions and impulses. But the action itself is simple. This is important to remember when meditation feels chaotic. The only thing we need to do is repeat the meditation  sound with a free mental attitude. Meditation thus becomes training in focusing on one task at a time.

Excessive screen use is often an escape. Meditation brings us in touch with what actually matters to us

Excessive screen use can be a way to avoid the difficult parts within ourselves. It may feel meaningful in the moment, but in the long run, it gives us little. Instead of turning our attention inward and reflecting on what in life is actually important, which relationships and tasks require attention, screen use provides a sense of false meaning. It is a common human tendency to resort to distractions to cover up difficult impulses and emotions. Meditation doesn’t cover up. Meditation confronts. Admittedly, in a gentle way, but when we meditate, we face our existence with open eyes. Then we can more easily feel where the shoe pinches, what has affected us, both good and bad. In meditation, we allow our unconscious to decide the course of action. The spontaneous stream of the mind doesn’t lie. Where screen use makes us more susceptible to the influence of market forces, meditation makes us more open to the influence of our own creativity, intuition, and conscience.

By Jonas Hansen Meyer

Translation: Anne Grete Hersoug
Language editor: Alice Cameron