What kind of devices do you use, and how do you use them?
I use two devices and I use them often but not incessantly. But often:) I am too busy bustling about, reading books, going to the theatre or entertaining my baby boy, Marlowe, to be staring at a screen all the time. I have an iPhone. In fact, I have five iPhones, because I use four additional ones to film my series The Visionaries. In addition, I work at a laptop. I am also a big fan of the traditional television screen. I always joke that if a film or play is as compelling as social media, or the constant drip of a newsfeed, I find myself checking on my phone so often, that is a mark of greatness. And on that note, playing with my baby is more compelling than all of those put together.
Effectiveness requires focus. How vulnerable are you to the distraction industry?
I have never had a problem with focus. I used to worry sometimes that I was too focused; colleagues would be going home at the end of a day’s work and I would think it was still lunchtime because I was so involved in what I was doing. These days, if I want to truly focus on a task, I know I have to hide my iPhone in a drawer and not look at it; the quick-fix scroll is a distraction and one that takes away from longer-term achievements and learning. Of that I am sure.
Prominent figures in Silicon Valley are known to strongly limit their children’s contact with tech. Madonna has recently said that she believes she made a mistake in giving her older children phones when they were 13.
The differences between people who grew up before smartphones and those who didn’t?
For myself, I know how much more playful and creative my brain was when I had to delve deep to find my own forms of play, entertainment and learning. Before the internet came along (and, don’t get me wrong, I am its biggest fan) on a handheld device, I know I was more present when observing and absorbing my surroundings and the company I was in. If I went to a museum, I really looked at what was on the walls and my brain really processed that, and that no doubt lead to some deeper memories, images and seeds of creativity and imagination.
In general, I was less distracted, and more present in the moment before I had a smartphone – be that while talking to friends, hanging out with family or sitting in a lesson at school. My memories were much more dominated by physical swathes of time, rather than visual ladders of images.