Hyper connectivity: why it’s about time we hung up.
AXA Assurances Luxembourg

Hyper connectivity: why it’s about time we hung up

Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning? Do you feel it vibrating in your pocket even when it's not there? Is the ping of incoming notifications the soundtrack to your life? If you answer yes to these three questions, the chances are you suffer from hyper connectivity. An increasingly common ailment that causes stress to skyrocket and paradoxically feeds a feeling of isolation.

Hyper connectivity: why it’s about time we hung up

Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning? Do you feel it vibrating in your pocket even when it's not there? Is the ping of incoming notifications the soundtrack to your life? If you answer yes to these three questions, the chances are you suffer from hyper connectivity. An increasingly common ailment that causes stress to skyrocket and paradoxically feeds a feeling of isolation.

When asked about their use of digital tools*, 7 out of 10 adults claim to be addicted. White-collar workers lead the way, who spend more than 7 hours in front of a screen and say they can’t go with it for more than a day. Over the last twenty years or so, computers and smartphones have taken up an inordinate amount of space in our daily lives. Text, chat or video have made us reachable at any time of the day, leading to a growing feeling of exhaustion.

Cognitive overload

AXA Luxembourg : l'hyperconnexion, source de stress et de surcharge cognitive

Not only are we continuously being badgered, but also pressured into giving increasingly rapid responses. E-mail management is reportedly the number one cause of stress at work. A task that accounts for 30% of an employee's day and which forces one manager in two to stay connected in the evening, trying to answer the 50 e-mails received every day. This infobesity is being stoked by the health crisis and the rise of homeworking.

Moreover, this continuous reception flow favours a multitasking way of working, which further exacerbates our feeling of being overwhelmed. And it’s hardly surprising. “Our brain is not capable of doing two things at once. It swings rapidly from one task to another. The more complicated a task is, the longer it takes our brain to regain its concentration,” explains Paul Brazzolotto, Doctor in Cognitive Psychology and research fellow at the  management consultancy Cog'X. A state of affairs that not only undermines our productivity drops, but also our ability to make decisions.

And don’t think that videoconferencing will offer a welcome break. This exercise also makes high demands on our cognitive capacities. In fact, you never meet the eyes of your interlocutor because everyone looks a few centimetres below their camera. Yet we are used to communicating by analysing weak signals (looks, gestures...) and the lack of normal eye contact is one of the main pitfalls of videoconferencing on Zoom or Teams.

Digital leash

AXA Luxembourg : les conséquences de l'hyperconnexion

But hyper connectivity also breeds dependency. Always at hand, the smartphone is turning into an extra limb on which we rely for our daily dose of dopamine, the hormone of instant gratification. A fact that hasn’t escaped interface designers: infinite scrolling, ‘like’ notifications on your publications...  “The platforms are created to grab our attention and encourage us to stay as long as possible by exploiting our knowledge of the brain, on the lookout for news and content that appeals to us,” analyses Paul Brazzolotto.

This turns our telephone into a digital comforter, an object of reassurance that we pull out on a whim and which slyly interferes in all our relationships. For example, 80% of French people use their mobile phone during a family meal or an evening with friends. Too much information received too quickly triggers a cognitive overload that can only be relieved by rest and silence.

Accustomed to competing demands, the concentration capacity of our brain has gone into free fall.  Back in 2004, screen concentration time was 3 minutes, compared to 1 minute in 2012 and around 40 seconds today.

Educating parents

AXA Luxembourg : contrôler l'hyperconnexion chez les enfants

For Nicolas Poirel, Professor of Developmental Psychology and author of the book “Votre enfant devant les écrans, ne paniquez pas” (Your child and screen time, don’t panic), the trick is to give the brain breaks, whether you are a child or a parent. “You shouldn't be continuously connected” whether it's e-mails from the office or conversations between friends at school. Parents need to lead by example and be there to interact with their child. “The idea is to pay joint attention and watch television with your child to be able to talk about it with them,” encourages the author.

This is especially true during a child’s early years, when they discover the world with their senses. Manual activities should be encouraged over passive activities in front of a screen in order to stimulate brain development, promote sleep and avoid problems with obesity or eye diseases.

Standing up for this right to switch off, by taking time out, by mediating, by favouring direct communication, reading or a creative activity is essential to keep the brain in good working order. We owe it to our health!



* Barometer on hyper connectivity carried out by the BVA institute for the Fondation April.