Our global research suggests you’re likely ready. Here are five tips on how your device can enhance your life more, and disrupt it less.

On a beautiful spring day seven years ago I was walking in the park with my wife and three-year-old daughter. The birds were chirping, the flowers swaying in the breeze (you get the picture) and I…was on my phone. Then I heard a small voice. “Dad, can I have your phone?” Perplexed, I locked the phone and handed it to my daughter. What would she do? I wondered. Pretend to text? “Mom, can you put this in your purse?” That was all she said, but it was enough. I realized that I had walked for at least a mile while staring at my phone. At that moment I began to reassess how I interact with technology.

Of course, I’m not alone. We are all struggling to reap the considerable benefits and avoid the most damaging costs of technology in our lives. We especially depend on technology to facilitate our financial interactions—for many people these days, money itself is primarily a digital concept. But technology can distract us from why we’re focused on money in the first place—which is often to help ourselves, our family and our community.

We’re big believers in data (no surprise there) and in that spirit we commissioned global research with 1,500 high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) participants to explore people’s perspectives on technology.1 The data clearly shows that people find extraordinary value in technology on a deeply personal level. (Figure 1). But participants express real conflict regarding the amount of time they spend on their devices. (Figure 2).

So how should we balance the pros and cons of technology in our lives? We tackle that important question (for which there is no right answer), drawing on the results of our survey as we examine the way humans approach and use technology, and conclude by offering five tips for making technology a positive force in our lives.

Figure 1. I feel technology enhances the quality of my overall life

Note: Participants were asked to rate the statement on a scale from 1 to 10 (ratings 1-3 disagree; 4-7 neutral; 8-10 agree) 

Source: J.P. Morgan Private Bank research, 2019. Total n=1,500.

Graphic shows that 63% of survey respondents indicated that they agreed with the statement that technology enhances their lives, while 34% were neutral and 3% disagreed with the statement.

Figure 2. How much time do you spend on a computer or digital device, including work and personal time?

Source: J.P. Morgan Private Bank research, 2019. Total n=1,500.
Graphic showing how many hours respondents say they spend on a digital device each day, and how many hours they would prefer to spend.

Cognitive off-loading

One key reason we like our devices so much is that they take things off our mind. Technology can act as a kind of second brain, a process known as “cognitive off-loading.” Its basic premise is that humans often take physical actions to reduce the effort of information processing on our brains. An action could be as simple as writing a list of “to dos” or using a calculator to multiply numbers.

Relieved that technology is working on our behalf, we presumably have more time and energy to do other things—whether that’s more work, play, life experiences or family moments.  What would it take to give up that feeling of relief? When asked how much they would have to be compensated to give up their personal device for one month, most of our survey participants said that very high dollar amounts would be required. In Figure 3, you’ll see that the most common choice was $100,000 (35%), and the second most common was $1,000,000 (28%).

Figure 3. How much would someone have to pay you to give up your digital device for a month?

Source: J.P. Morgan Private Bank research, 2019. Total n=1,500.
Bar chart showing that most respondents wouldn’t give up their digital device for a month for less than $100,000.

We tackle that important question (for which there is no right answer), drawing on the results of our survey as we examine the way humans approach and use technology, and conclude by offering five tips for making technology a positive force in our lives.

Tip 1: Embrace the benefits of technology—from relationships to how you financially transact

Don’t shun technology, or frame it in a negative way. Instead, be thoughtful about how, when and why you use the technology in your life.

Tip 2: Spend your time intentionally—on and off your device

Ask yourself: What if I had a few months back in my life per year by spending less time on my device? What would I do with that? If the answers to those questions inspire you to govern your device time more deliberately, you can actively monitor your usage-and even engage a digital coach to reduce time spent on your device.

Tip 3: Know the risks of using your device—and share that information with the people you care about 

Some risks are as simple as keeping passwords private. Others may be more nuanced: for example, taking a pause when executing financial transactions on a mobile device.

Tip 4: Beware of cognitive off-loading—in other words, use your gray matter!

Set aside your device and think. You can even make it a game—at the dinner table, with friends, at work. In other words, don’t cognitively off-load just because you can.

Tip 5: Relocate your phone—depending on your situation or circumstance 

Does your phone really need to be on the table? Next to your bed?  If not, consider relocating it.

So when you pick up your phone for the 20th time that day (after you’ve only been up for an hour) ask yourself the question we posed to our survey participants: Is technology enhancing my life, or disrupting it? We all hope to harness the positive power of technology in our lives, while avoiding its less attractive side effects. By definition, the choice is personal—there is no “correct” answer. And as technology evolves, so too will our own personal calculus about what it is we want from our ever-present smartphones and devices.

Interested in reading more about this topic and gaining more insight into our global research? Download the PDF for the full version of this article.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Our global research was conducted in collaboration with iResearch. We surveyed 1,500 people globally, across 11 areas in North America, South America, Europe and Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, UK and the U.S.). The population was 45% female, spread across a wide range of age groups 21–35 (34%), 36–50 (34%), and 51+ (32%). Net worth of participants (excluding their personal residences) ranged from USD 250,000 to USD 100 million, with 36% between USD 250,000 and USD 1 million, 34% between USD 1 million and USD 5 million and 30% USD 5 million+.