In Episode 1 of Raised by the Internet, Ella and Jessica explore how phones are wired to be addictive.
Growing up in a small town in the Midwest, there wasn’t a lot for some of us to do….except go online. Join us as we explore what it was like to grow up on the internet as the digital world developed.
In our pockets are portals to an infinite amount of knowledge and the ability to connect with the entire world. But are the endless notifications and doomscrolling doing more harm than good? In this episode, we explore our relationships with our phones and how they’ve changed as we aged.
Produced by Ella Field, Matt Blake, & Jessica Comstock
Edited by Matt Blake
Directed by Matthew Meisinger
Crew: Gable Thompson, Zacary Gideon, Harrison Futrell, Kayla Hartman, Ben Mowitz
Ella Field, Host: Yeah. I also had like a library class, and that’s when we learned about computer safety and online safety, and we learned how to use the computers and everyone’s favorite app was this drawing app where you could draw little pictures and stuff. But there were also stock images that you could upload. And everyone’s favorite activity was to upload the baby stock photo and then take a pen that had flames and draw all over the baby yeah.
*Intro song plays*
Ella: Hello and welcome to Raised by the Internet. I’m Ella.
Jessica Comstock, Host : And I’m Jessica. This is going to be a podcast where we talk about our lives growing up on the Internet. Growing up as a tween in the Midwest, there just wasn’t a ton for us to do except go online and so we’re going to explore what it was like to grow up online and how the digital world changed as we age.And I think we have a lot to talk about throughout this podcast, including fandoms and influencers.
Ella: Yeah, we just there’s a ton on unpack. We’ll be here every other week and we will be on urban-plains.com with our little video podcast for about 30 minutes each week. Some episodes to come are kids websites and like you said, influencers, but we also aren’t here alone. We have a very special fact checker, Matt.
00;01;42;05 – 00;01;42;25
Matt Blake, Fact Checker: Hi everybody.
Ella: He will be keeping us in line and making sure we are saying the truth. And making things run smoothly. And something we want to do every episode is have this little segment where we talk about what we can’t get out of our mind that we saw online during the week. So what is your little thing you saw online this week that you can’t get out of your head?
Jessica: So something I just really can’t let go of, I guess I can’t say that it is the fact that people think that Wordle has changed so much. So in case some for some reason, people are missing it, the Wordle is like the biggest new, like fun word game and it was independently created. But then the New York Times bought it when we were all sharing our little squares every week on Twitter, every day on Twitter.
Ella: The New York Times had dollar signs when they saw people were playing it.
Jessica: Yeah, yeah, the New York Times had some dollar signs in their eyes. So they bought the game. And ever since they bought the game and the interface changed to match the New York Times, people are convinced that the game got super hard even though the literal script of the game had all the words that were upcoming and they were all the same. Like they took a few out that were like inappropriate or insensitive but people are really mad because there’s a lot of double letter words going on and things they write about. And it’s just so interesting how like almost misinformation can spread so fast on Twitter in such a small example.
Ella: But yeah, because at the end of the day, it was just a coincidence.
Jessica: Yeah, it was just a coincidence. Like Justice for the New York Times and their Wordle. I think they’re doing great. Yeah.
Ella: My little thing I can’t get out of my head is, I need to pull it up. But it’s this dog and cat duo I saw on Daily Paws. They look the same, not like literally the same, but like they look like they’re related.
Jessica: Oh, my gosh. They’re really cute. Yeah.
Ella: My new goal in life is to have a dog and cat that look like that. And similarly, a little TikTok sound going around right now is a dog barking and a cat singing back and forth. And I would love to like, I would pay good money to watch them do that. So I also can’t get that out of my head.
Jessica: Yeah. So on to what we really are here to talk about, which is how we are addicted to the Internet and our phones. I thought it would be interesting if we sort of started this whole podcast talking about how we were raised and like when we first started going online. So do you remember what it was like to first go on the Internet?
Ella: Yeah, I don’t have one specific memory of the first time I ever went online, but something I remember is when I would go to the doctor and they would say, Oh, you should only be on the Internet for an hour a week, or just on screens.
Jessica: A week?
Ella: Yeah, TV, computer included. And that’s like insane to me.
Jessica: Yeah. I think my first memory of being on the Internet and just online as a kid was in elementary school. We had just computer education classes, which I feel like was pretty common at the time. And there was a little computer set up in our library and I remember learning how to type. We have this like silicone, like orange mat over the keyboard. So that was really interesting. But we also learned some crazy things about like fake news, which was like back in the day, I feel like they’re kind of on top of it. I remember learning that and being on the computer and just learning all like little tech things. Definitely more than an hour a week, though, so not really in line with what your doctor recommended.
Ella: Well, I didn’t like my doctor, but that’s, that’s not for this. Yeah. Yeah. I also had like a library class, and that’s when we learned about computer safety and online safety, and we learned how to use the computers. And everyone’s favorite app was this drawing app where you could draw little pictures and stuff. But there were also stock images that you could upload. And everyone’s favorite activity was to upload the baby stock photo and then take a pen that had flames and draw all over the baby yeah. So we got that taken away, and then we just figured out a few loopholes and played some other games we probably shouldn’t have, but we can talk about that in our kid episode.
Jessica: Yeah, I think we had sort of a similar app with the like art sort of things, but ours, we definitely just played with nature things and little rainbows. It wasn’t like the fire.
Ella: Not as dark?
Jessica: Yeah, yeah. Another thing I remember about being on like the online and just on my computer as a kid was my best friend in elementary school introduced me to The Sims
Ella: Oh, that’s big.
Jessica: And Talking about being on your phone for a long time, that I was on my computer constantly.
Ella: Yeah. There are some nights: Sims all night long.
Jessica: Yeah. I could literally play it for hours and hours on end. And I remember being in her kitchen on the computer and she had like a little corgi that would run around and play on her feet. Kind of off topic, but yeah, and we would play Sims for hours, and that was probably the start of like my computer, just like constantly being at one.
Ella: Yeah. That made me think of a question. Yeah. There’s a concept of a family computer that I think a lot of us share.
Jessica: Yeah. Back in the day. Not anymore.
Ella: Not anymore. I do not share a computer with my family anymore. Thank God. We’d all be fighting for it. Yeah, but where was your family computer?
Jessica: Mine was. It’s kind of funny. I feel like it’s really indicative of the times. Mine was in a little tiny room off of my parents’ bedroom, which used to be my and my brother’s nursery. Oh, but they put a desk in there a nice computer chair, and our computer, which I don’t know, types of computer from the early 2000s, but I remember it was like that teal plasticky sort of look on the side. And so it was very 2000s/90s. I’m sure it got really loud when the fan was going. Where was yours?
Ella: Um, mine was in our basement and a little corner desk, and it was not the cool plastic one–I wish. It was the giant like weird off white gray color. Also very loud with a fan. Yeah. But I would sit down there playing my little games and one time a mouse crawled over my feet, which was traumatizing. But yeah, that was our, our family computer story. Yeah.
Jessica: When you were down in the basement on your family computer, do you know, like, what do you think you were on the computer to be doing?
Ella: I was emailing, I was on Webkinz, I was on some other games. Um, but yeah, which, what was your first email? Because I think that says a lot about someone.
Jessica: OK, so my same friend that introduced me to the Sims, one time I was on vacation and she told me that I should get an email so we can talk because we don’t have phones at the time we were kids. And so she had me set up an email. So I asked my dad, I was like, Hey, can you set up an email for me? On Yahoo! because that’s what she had. So I had to do the same.
Ella: Listen, I use Yahoo still, which is embarrassing, but continue.
Jessica: And she, my dad goes set up for me and he’s like, OK, so you have to pick a username and what you want your name on your email to be. And my friend, her email was email@example.com. And so being her bestie, I was like, I want it to be basically the same. So mine was firstname.lastname@example.org, and I used that for years, like when I was in elementary school, if I signed up for anything, it was froodlenoodlestar1. What about yours?
Ella: Mine wasn’t as exciting. It was email@example.com. My dad just made it for me because we had a free account or like within our Comcast subscription, or something.
Jessica: Yeah, my parents used Comcast.
Ella: Yeah. So I got it and I don’t really have any interesting story about making my email address because I didn’t do it, but once I got it, my first email was to Snuggie, the product. And I was telling them how stupid their product was. It was a hate email.
Jessica: and that was common at the time. Being on the Snuggie hate train.
Ella: Yeah. I don’t know why but because now I want to Snuggie. Anyway, so I sent that email, and immediately after I felt regret. I genuinely thought I was going to go to jail. So I sent a follow up email, apologized, and stopped sending hate emails after that. Maybe that’s why I’m not a troll on the internet anymore. I shouldn’t say anymore. That’s why I’m not a troll on the internet now.
Jessica: Yeah. So speaking of firsts, what was your first phone?
Ella: My first phone was the LG Xenon in Blue. This was big for me. My dad had it, so I was jealous. And then once he got a new phone, I got it when I was in fourth grade. It was big because most people don’t have phones then, but it had the -again, it factors into the like how we wanted to be like cool and yeah- but it had the slide up keyboard with the touch screen. And it was everything to me.
Jessica: I feel like I remember them on Hannah Montana having that sort of phone. My first one was also kind of good for being in fourth grade it was the Motorola Razr. I walked to school, so my family just wanted me to have a phone to make sure if I got kidnaped in those like five blocks of school. Yeah, but I did in middle school get my first smartphone, which I feel like is pretty big. I got an iPhone 4S in white. And remember how it was like glass on the back? I definitely dropped it and had like colored it with Sharpie to make it rainbow because that was what all the people were doing on Tumblr. And all the popular people from my high school, or I guess my middle school, sorry. Were obsessed with me because I had this phone that they could take pictures on and play games and I still have a flash drive somewhere with all their pictures.
Ella: You have some made dirt on them.
Jessica: Yeah, I do. So if they ever want to hit me up, I have a flash drive somewhere out there with their pictures on them.
Ella: Why do you think we were on? Like, we wanted to be online so much and we wanted to be on our phone so much?
Jessica: Yeah. I feel like my reason is like I have an older brother and he plays video games. Like, that was his screen time, but he didn’t want me to play video games with him because I’m, I’m the lame, like, younger sister. Like, no, one wants their younger sister to play video games with them. And my parents were gone a lot. So I think going online was just the way to entertain myself instead of putting on the TV because my brother was using it for video games. If you put a computer in front of me, I was basically like an iPad baby of the 2000s. Like I could just go on and do things for hours. What about you?
Ella: I agree. Probably the same, but also because I think there was a mindset that teenagers were online and in my brain, like teenagers were the coolest things ever. And so I wanted to be cool and go online and be like older and hip and fun.
Jessica: Well, to do anything online, you had to be 13. So it just makes sense that, you know, when you’re younger than 13, you see that you have to be 13. It’s like, OK, well I was born in 1992. Yeah, I can go on the internet and on Facebook and things like that.
Ella: And then you’re just on there for too much.So now I think maybe we should talk about our current relationship with being online. By being vulnerable.
Jessica: That’s scary.
Ella: Sharing our current screen times. So let me get my phone.
Jessica: Yeah, I’ll get my phone too. I think mine has probably been pretty bad recently.
Ella: Yeah, mine has also been worse than it has been. I would also like to preface this by saying this is just our phone screen time. A computer can’t count in my brain because I need it for other things. But my weekly average was 4 hours and 16 minutes last week, which was up 10% from last week.
Jessica: That’s pretty good compared to mine. Mine was 6 hours and 44 minutes but it was up 30%. So yeah, a little maybe not normal, but not as bad, but last week was a little rough for me.
Ella: And I spent 29 hours and 55 minutes, which is absolutely insane for me to think about. And It makes me feel bad because that’s over a day that I just wasted on my phone last week.
Jessica: Well, if you feel bad about a day wasted, mine was 47 hours, which is basically two days, which is insane. Like you said to think about. Yeah, I’m on this thing for two whole days of only seven days a week. I don’t know. That’s a lot of time.
Ella: You lose a whole day or two.
Jessica: But when I’m on my phone, I’m talking to people I’m doing
Ella: it’s not all useless, making plans…
Jessica: What, what do you do most on your phone? What’s your highest?
Ella: My highest is TikTok. I have a screen time limit of 30 minutes, but sometimes when I go over that, I use the remind me in 15 minutes as like a break. I get a 15 minute break, and I can scroll for 15 minutes.
Jessica: But do you do it like six times?
Jessica: Because that’s what I do. My most used was TikTok. I also have a screen limit on TikTok, but I use it, I overuse that remind me in 15 minutes. I put in a little password and I keep going. What about you, Matt? Do you know what your screen time is looking like?
Matt: Yeah, can’t lie, I’m kind of killing it. I’m feeling good about this.
Ella: No need to brag.
Matt: Last week I was sitting at 2 hours and 15 minutes a day. Which is a lot lower than I thought it would be. I kind of always feel like I’m touching at my phone. I also feel like it’s vibrating when it’s not vibrating. That’s one of my things. But total screen time was just under 9 hours. Which, again, I’m not sure if I believe, but I will gladly accept it. I’m down 9%. Well, mostly what I’m doing with it is, I sound like an old man, but I’m mostly on safari. I assume I’m just googling things whenever I hear about them, and that’s what I use it mostly for. Closely following would be Instagram and Facebook yeah.
Jessica: Well, you’re doing so much better than us.
Matt: I’m feeling good. I’m feeling it. I can’t lie.
Ella: Yeah, I’m jealous of your of of your screen time. I wish I was that low. We’re working on it. We’re working on it.
Jessica: So speaking of screen time, maybe we should share a little bit into the facts of why we’re so addicted.
Ella: Like the real reason.
Jessica: The real reason.
Ella: Backed up by science.
Ella: Yeah. So we prepared some things, I think.
Jessica: Yeah, I also researched some things.
Ella: OK, so a Pew research study found that in 2021 85% of Americans said that they go online on a daily basis. And of that, it was something like 48% who say they go online constantly or no 31% going online constantly.
Jessica: Yeah that’s I feel like that’s weirdly kind of low yeah I would wonder if those people who are answering that survey, what they think online means. Because for me I do think I’m online constantly because I use Google Docs and I use like just all of Google Drive things and then just a lot of things you do on the internet. It’s not like social media. So I think a lot of people maybe think of online as just social media. Yeah, but you’re also reading the news even you can consider iMessage as online.
Ella: No, I agree. And I feel like people aren’t, might not have been considering their computer usage as I’m just their phone or. Yeah, like working on their on the computer.
Jessica: And that survey even like the results get even worse when you look at younger people. 48% or no 44% of people age 18 to 49 say they go online almost constantly, which is like 10% more than the overall population.
Ella: Do you think that you go online constantly?
Jessica: Yeah I don’t think there in my recent world, especially with the pandemic, I don’t think there’s a world where I’m not online constantly. I talk to my friends online, I work online, I do school online. So it’s kind of hard to not just constantly be on the screen.
Ella: Yeah, I feel like I’m the same way, like from when I start working in the morning to when I’m done in the evening, It’s already been like 10 hours where I’ve been staring at my computer.
Jessica: Mm hmm. And we’ve been talking a little bit about just phone use as an addiction. And I do think that’s interesting because it’s technically not seen as an addiction technically in the American Psychiatric Association. Their official manual of mental disorders phone addiction is not a thing, but some researchers and specialists have been sort of treating it as one when people, you know, go to therapy and they’re like, I’m on my phone all the time, what can you do about it? So I thought it would be interesting if we looked at the three signs of addiction or the three Cs of addiction is what they call it. And see if that fits then how we use our phones. So the first one is control, which is when you use a substance or perform behavior like gambling or going on your phone in ways that could be considered out of control or more so than intended. Do you think you do that?
Ella: Well, yes, because I just like will subconsciously pick up my phone and just click like I sometimes I don’t have control. I just do it and I don’t know why, but I just do. How about you?
Jessica: I think I definitely use it more than intended. I again, I can just scroll on TikTok forever. And sometimes I’ll just think, you know, I’m going to be on it for 5 minutes and then it’s 45 minutes later and I have to go to class and I have to get out of the house. So I definitely do that yeah. It’s kind of sad. The second C is compulsion, which is being intensely mentally preoccupied with or using a substance or performing a behavior automatically without actively deciding to do so.
Ella: Oh, I guess I already talked about this, but like, I just will pick my phone up.
Jessica: Mm. Yeah. When you pick your phone up, do you know usually what you’re going to do?
Ella: No, I just click and usually I go to Instagram and I’ll scroll for like not a long time because then I get bored and then I’ll go to Pinterest. And then I’ll put my phone down because I’m bored.
Jessica: Yeah. I feel like I pick it up. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’ll go on Twitter and I’ll scroll for a bit, and then I’ll just be bored and I’ll be like, Oh, I was doing something else. The third and final see is Consequences, which is controlled use or continued to use in spite of negative social, physical or mental consequences. So do you think you use your phone to a point where it’s causing you harm in your real life?
Ella: I don’t think so. It’s never really been like a negative thing. Sometimes I’ll get stressed when I’m on it too much, but I wouldn’t say it’s like an overarching negative impact on my life. Like social media has never been negative to me, or I’ve never had mental health issues because of it.
Jessica: Yeah, I also don’t think like social media, in general, has been something that negatively affects my mental health. But I do think that just the time I’m on it is so I guess sort of like I could scroll and scroll for hours and then affects what I’m doing for work and then I’m not getting things done. I’m pushing back deadlines and that definitely makes me anxious and affects my mental health.
Ella: So who knows if we’re addicted? But yeah, I think too like part of the reason it’s so addicting is because you can scroll forever and it’s like gambling like you can you don’t know what you’re going to get, but you have a feeling it’s going to be like, as in gambling, you don’t always know it’s going to be good, but online, it usually is. And if it’s not, you can just scroll past the bad and you’re probably going to be at a good.
Jessica: Mm. Yeah. And research sort of backs this and that, you know, when you’re just on your phone, you’re getting notifications, you don’t know. It is that unpredictability that makes it because if you knew every single thing when you picked up your phone, you knew what was going to be on there, you wouldn’t pick it up. Because it’s kind of like the mystery and that makes you interested.
Ella: It’s like a little surprise.
Jessica: Yeah. So when you get a notification, you know, it could be something good, it could be, you know, your bestie being like, hey want to hang out. That’s fun. But it could also be something that’s, like, terrible or like your favorite after dying or, you know, just sad news. And because you don’t know that when you hear a notification in your brain, you’re just kind of like, oh, I wonder what it is I have to go see. And it’s kind of the same thing with refreshing. It’s almost like a slot machine, you know, you pull it down, but it’s also like like the physical aspect of slot machine, like that refreshing and not knowing what you’re going to get.
Ella: And again, when you see something good, your brain will release a little bit of dopamine. And so then your brain associates your phone with dopamine so then you’re going to continually go on your phone and create a habit because you think you’re going to get dopamine. And you probably will get to me and every time you open your phone at least once.
Jessica: Because whether it’s just something good you see or even just like colors. Like I have this theory still.
Ella: Please tell.
Jesica: Ok, so I don’t know if people know when people tweet things that are like, the world is so dull these days. And like people physically think that the world is just like muted in color. I think because you’re on your phone so much and it’s like three inches away and all these bright colors that we are now seeing the real world as super dull. So, Matt, if you could fact check that while I talk a little more about colors, feel free to let us know. But yeah, and I think when we were younger, screens were even I mean, they’re less technologically advanced, but also they just weren’t as bright, like colors were muted and I think now, I remember in middle school, like the iOS on your phone changed.
Ella: That was huge.
Jessica: Yeah. And that happening when we were at such a young age that like everything in our mind was, you know, it could be like I said, It was like a switch was flipped because everything was just so bright all of a sudden. Like, I remember Instagram was that brown camera. And then it changed into that super bright purple and yellow color. And everything on your phone is so bright and that’s like a thing. Like people are grayscaling their phone now to make their phone use like less and less addictive because by grayscaling your phone you’re sort of stripping away some of those inner neurons, stimulating colors that just make it really exciting to look at or basically like big babies. If you put something in fighting in front of, in front of us, like our brain sort of flashes with colors and like, I like that. So, Matt, did you find any information for us?
Matt: So much information. You’re definitely not alone in this theory. And actually, back in 2018, a team of color scientists, which sounds like a really cool job, started a project to investigate these claims that people thought, oh we’re using our phones too much and now the world is becoming dull and, and dim and all of this stimulation is ruining our, our dopamine and how we interact with the world. There’s no scientific evidence to support that necessarily. That being said, there is a lot of scientific evidence to report that if you’re depressed, the general view of the world is dim and dull. So these two things may connect, but a lot of the things that they found have to do with attention span and that a black and white image holds human attention for like two-thirds of a second, something like that. Whereas a super colorful image, which is everything that we view on our phones, is like two or 3 seconds or more. So it really just starts to add up. And they know what they’re doing. They know how to get us.
Jessica: Well, so maybe the people who are grayscale in their phone you know, they have some reason that it is helping them out.
Ella: Yeah, maybe we’re all just depressed. Anyways, thank you, Matt, for making sure that we are correct. And not just making stuff up, but how do you think the pandemic has shaped your screen time or changed that at all? If it has.
Jessica: I’m definitely on my computer way more. And just in general, like I went from having to go into classes and sitting there in front of people and to just seeing everyone on the computer forever. But also, I just think people found that being on the computer is a little almost more productive. So I think a lot of things will change in the future. And have already just stayed constant in that like workflows and things are just easier to almost do online, which is kind of crazy.
Ella: Yeah. Like how a lot of companies, some people might never go back in the office because they were more productive on their computer. And I agree that my computer time has just increased a lot. My phone time, I think, has gone down just because when the pandemic started, I focused more on hobbies and especially knitting really helped. And I would do that instead of picking up my phone because I need to always be doing something with my hands but yeah, my computer time went way up because I’m on it all day long and I still am, even though like the pandemic is still happening. Yes, we’re not in virtual class anymore. But I’m or but I’m still like working from home. I’m still doing homework on my computer and stuff like that.
Jessica: Yeah. And a study showed that in 2020, I think 52 to 70% of people said that their phone time and social media use increased and that was conducted towards the beginning of the pandemic. But so definitely I think I like me personally I was on social media a lot more just to fill my days in those early March, April, May times of COVID. But I also think I was getting outside a lot more because I didn’t have as much stuff to do. So yeah. And then as the pandemic continued, we couldn’t just not work sort of, you know, those expectations were sort of ramped back up and that we were supposed to be productive. We are supposed to like do quality work, I suppose. So we did have to work more and um, you know, and that ended up having to still be online because the pandemic is going on.
Ella: Yeah. And I feel like too, just like it’s going to be that way now it’s like we keep talking about a new normal in general, but I think that really is like, there’s no escaping it. When I think about when we were talking about my doctor saying one hour week to now I’m probably on my computer 10 hours a day. Yeah, that’s like insane to think about.
Jessica: Mm. Yeah. And a lot of people now are even going to like remote work and things like that. And I just think, you know, I’m always going to be on my phone and computer and I think that’s just what it’s going to be like.
Ella: Do we have any goals moving forward about how we’re going to process this information and are we going to change what we do on our phone or on our computer or anything like that?
Jessica: I think you really inspire me that you can like knit and do things with your hand, because I do think that’s a big reason why I’m on my phone a lot. I think I’m just, you know, constantly looking for something to grab or do. So hobbies are definitely a thing that helps with that and something that I can do with my hands. Maybe I’ll take up painting.
Ella: Well, that’d be fun.
Jessica: I don’t know where to put the paintings but. Yeah. What about you?
Ella: Yeah, I think me too. Like just trying to reduce my screen time overall, especially on my phone and doing more knitting or just doing other things because I am the type person that constantly needs to be doing something with my hands. Yeah. So that helped me, and I just think I need to keep doing that. I’ve fallen out of it a little bit since the pandemic, it’s not less, but like I’m in person and things more. So I’m having a hard time, but yeah.
Jessica: Yeah, for sure. And I think just like getting outside and like seeing people in the real world, maybe when restrictions lighten up a little bit, that can kind of help. You know, I can see people’s full faces. That would be crazy. So I think I don’t know, like, I don’t know what the future holds for my screen time. I’m worried that it will get worse over time. So maybe I’ll become busier, but everyone says after college, you get less busy. It’s going to fill your time with things.
Ella: Who knows what the future holds? Yeah, but next. I do know what thefuture holds in two weeks from now. We’ll be talking about influencers.
Jessica: I think we are.
Ella: And just that crazy world. Yeah, that’s a lot. There’s a lot to unpack there.
Jessica: There is a lot to unpack, especially when we were younger.
Ella: Oh, yeah. So I guess we’ll see you in two weeks. Thanks for watching. Check back at urban-plains.com in two weeks from now and we’ll be talking about influencers.
Jessica: Yeah. This has been raised by the Internet because we were raised with the internet.