I have tried to avoid my Smartphone all day and it did not end well! Entirely banishing the smartphone from my life is a difficult thing to do, so I used it only when it was absolutely necessary. I kept the usage, . of my phone minimum by only responding to calls. I knew, if I switched on the internet, I would be immediately besieged by notifications from instagram, twitter, facebook and whatsapp. So, I abstained myself from unnecessarily sneaking glances at my phone. It was a voluntary effort.
Here are my initial thoughts. I was scared that I might miss out on some important announcements posted in the class group. I was worried because, next day when I walk into the class, I don’t want to be deranged. I want to know what happened when it actually happened and when it still matters and not when no one cares. I know, most of us feel the same way. That is how the technology is designed – to suck billions of users into the undulating vortex of information.
What we have to be conscious about is what is important? Talking to a friend sitting next to you or reading the news feed; replying to an email or enjoying the time with your family. Also, sometimes it is essential that we use technology. In such times we can use it in a focused manner that is using it only to do the intended work and not anything else. For example, if you have taken your phone to reply to an important email, do it, but don’t favor watching Youtube after sending the email. You may ask, why, watching Youtube a wrong thing to do? Absolutely not. You can watch it but check whether you consciously chose to watch or you are watching because of a notification which dragged you into the app, even though you have no intention to watch.
This concept was very clearly explained in the book “The Productivity Project” by Chris Bailey. Among other very helpful productivity tips, this book gives the readers a deep insight into how much technology effects one’s productivity. “Deep Work” by Cal Newport also shares the same views and stressed how technology is reducing the attention span. In this book, he talks about ways you can increase the habit of Deep Work and reduce the effects caused by addicting technology.
There is a very thin line between using the technology and being used by the technology. You don’t want to be used by anyone, you got to take charge of what you see, when you see and most importantly you should know what effects your life in negative ways.
There are studies which state that human attention span has been drastically reduced to 8 seconds from 12 seconds in just a decade. Loosing concentration is an alarming issue and we can fix it but it takes enormous amounts of voluntary abstinence from technology and conscious decision making about what kind of technology should be present in your day to day life.
It is not just me, people are actually concerned about this. Let’s see what ethical design experts like Tristan Harris has to say!
Have you ever thought about the refresh button on social media pages? Every time you pull the page down, you are fed with new information. You don’t know whether you might get something important next time you refresh the page, so any normal human’s instinct would be to check the page as often as possible. Many people argue that this is more like a “Magic trick” or a “Slot Machine”(Tristan Harris) which attracts the people to do it more often than required. It makes them curious about the next outcome because they know it won’t be same. This has become a game of probability than medium to peacefully interact with your close friends. Not just social media, any internet technology has the same effect. They are designed to make people spend more time on a particular platform.
Tristan Harris, the founder of “Center for Humane Technology” expressed his concern towards the modern technology design, many a times through various social media channels in hope of helping the teenagers or any adult addicted to technology. He was the one to bring the “Time well spent” movement. Here are some of the suggestions given by him:
He says that what we don’t know, won’t hurt us and we won’t miss it. That is true. But we have to spend lesser time on technology and still get everything important from it. He suggests that rather than notifying the user every time a new message comes, the app can release the notifications in scheduled times. This way, the user won’t be spending all his time grappling through the notifications.
He also says that social approval is something we need from social media. We measure our friend base with the number of likes we get on a post or how often people tag us in their posts. However, if we see it closely most of it is just an illusion created by social media websites. They try to induce false sense of wanting and care. They prompt you to tag a person or they prompt you to strike a conversation with your friend when it has been a while since you talked to him/her.
There are literally hundreds of ways in which technology can drag you into a quagmire of information that you can’t explicitly distinguish from useful to not useful. Imagine thousands of people working constantly to push you into the information stream strategically and bank on your time. Yes, that is true and if you feel cheated and betrayed, you are not alone. To learn healthy ways to interact with technology you need to make a conscious effort to not overuse it. You can follow Tristan Harris and his speeches to learn more about the same.