A smaller share of Canadians are happy with their work-life equilibrium than eight decades back, a period where smartphones and the internet have become deeply embedded in the everyday life of people under 75, a new Statistics Canada reportnbsp;notes.
The findings, drawn from 2016’s General Social Survey, suggest that although Canadians are broadly pleased with the way technology has changed their lives, they might feel that some elements of electronic technology have penetrated too far to the domesticnbsp;world.
Fully three-quarters of Canadians possessed a smartphone in 2016, nearly a decade since the introduction of the iPhone made the pocket computers popular, StatsCan discovered, surveying more than 19,000 Canadians 15 andnbsp;above.
Meanwhile, 68 percent of Canadians described themselves as satisfied or very happy with their work-life equilibrium, down 10 points fromnbsp;2008.
StatsCan didn’t ask respondents why they were satisfied with their work-life equilibrium, but the decrease comes amidst widespread concern about smartphones smuggling work e-mail and other distractions into thenbsp;home.
Daniel Levitin, an emeritus professor of neuroscience at McGill University and author The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Era of Information Overload, stated he was not surprised by the fall in a sense of equilibrium. “As I was doing interviews for my book,” he wrote in an email, “with highly successful people (and highly organized people), that is what people were complaining of. Computers were supposed to save us time but it’s become thenbsp;reverse.
“Add to that the pressure in our over-caffeinated society for more and more done, and you have a situation where nobody feels they could slow down for even five minutes. That is obviously going affect family life, leisure time, and paradoxically it impacts productivity — people who take regular breaks during the day and … slow down to smell the Tim Hortons coffee get more done because [their] brains are working morenbsp;economically.”
Canadians’ satisfaction with their work-life equilibrium didn’t change much between people (70 percent against 66 percent) or between those with children and those without (67 percent against 69 pernbsp;cent).
Fourteen percent of Canadians, meanwhile, believed that technology “often interfered with different things in life,” the StatsCan investigation found, rising to 20 percent for individuals between 15 andnbsp;24.
Family time is often a casualty of the interference, based on Catherine Steiner-Adair, writer of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. She cites research from the University of Southern California Annenberg’s Center for the Digital Future indicating the proportion of Americans who reported spending less time with family due to their online use shot from 11 percent in 2006 to 28 percent innbsp;2011.
In an interview, Dr. Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist, said her research has demonstrated that children suffer as much as anyone from a breakdown of the barriers between home and work life. For her book, she interviewed 1,000 children between 4 and 18 and discovered that they felt abandoned by parents consumed with work tasks in their own phones. Children especially disliked the excuse that their parents were “just checking” a system that often actually pulled the parent into a digital rabbitnbsp;gap.
Dr. Steiner-Adair reported that families should set phone-free zones in the home, such as the livingroom and dining-room table, together with phone-free occasions ofnbsp;day.
Despite the apparent disruption of work-life equilibrium, many Canadians find a lot to enjoy about new electronic technologies, StatsCan found. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said life was better due to technology, with 66 percent saying it saved time and 36 percent saying it aidednbsp;creativity.
SNAPSHOTS OF CANADA: WHAT WE’VE LEARNED FROM THE 2016nbsp;CENSUS