"CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson spends a day without technology and gets "itchy"

Pay Attention: A day without technology

In our new series, Pay Attention, we're looking at the role technology plays in our lives in a different way: its impact on our ability to focus and how we can recapture our attention from the devices that distract us.


"CBS This Morning" cameras followed co-host John Dickerson at home to see how much he uses technology on a typical Saturday and what happens when he swears it off. On a normal Saturday, Dickerson picked up his phone 86 times, using it for a total of more than four hours in addition to a few hours on the computer.

"When I woke up this morning my first interaction with mankind, with any other sentient life, was with my phone," Dickerson said.

With a big piece of writing to do, he tried to find some time to be focused. But about 45 minutes in, he couldn't resist a quick escape.

"Oh, let's just check in with email and...a detour leads to detour leads to detour and suddenly you're in Albuquerque," he said.

Then there's that digital siren call. A notification on your phone or even the anticipation of one releases dopamine, the chemical responsible for controlling the brain's reward and pleasure centers. So we keep coming back for more.

On his not-so-typical, technology-free Saturday, he put his phone in digital time-out. For the whole day he didn't touch it.

"It's 10:20 in the morning, I've wanted to send these messages or check things....This is probably about a dozen times," he said.

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"CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson CBS News

Dickerson also sat down with Dr. Michael Baime, who runs the mindfulness program at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I'm a big proponent of mindfulness for things like this because mindfulness is really a process that trains your attention to be more stable," Baime said.

He says when our attention is wobbly we no longer make a choice to stay focused and automatically pick up our phones.

"Today I've gone without technology and increasingly over the course of the day I've had this hunted feeling, this itchy feeling. What's happening to me?" Dickerson asked.

"You're stepping in the way of a habit. It's hard....The thing that devices take from us is the ability to have a full, complete focus. So when attention is drawn here and there over and over again it becomes fragmented…. And our experience of the whole world becomes fragmented in that same way," he replied. 

For an extended version of Dr. Baime's interview, watch the video below. 

Pay Attention: Using mindfulness to recapture your focus