More than 2.5 billion people have smartphones now. According to new research Americans on average pickup there phone 80 times a day. Smartphones, apps, and the web are invaluable tools in our daily lives. A surprising stat I presented in the newsletter this year was that millennials check their phones about 150 times per day. The idea of digital wellness has become more concerning in recent years. These apps and devices open up opportunities, keep us connected, but also capture our attention.
When push notifications were first introduced in 2003 for Blackberry e-mails, the goal was to make you check your phone less. Now in 2018, every app wants to push notifications to your device. It is argued that the phones and the apps on them are designed to keep us engaged and addicted. Digital wellness has become an ever-growing issue to consumers, politicians, and tech companies. The movement offers up solutions to help free us from our screens and to help us live more in the present.
Whats All the BUZZZZ About?
Studies have found links between e-mails, social media post, and other notifications to dopamine releases in the brain. Every time your phone buzzes is an interruption to what you are currently focused on. The unpredictability of good notifications versus bad notifications makes it difficult for us to stop checking our devices. Notifications and some apps are designed to keep your attention in a very similar way that a slot machine seeks to keeps your attention. Every wonder why you slide down on an app to refresh? It’s designed that way intentionally. Apps are able to update on their own, but that pull action gives us an illusion of control over that process. Notifications and endless scrolling apps keep us from being focused and productive. If notifications were more predictable, than it may take out their addictive nature. We are drawn into the rabbit hole that is our news feed and minutes later are not sure why we opened this app in the first place. The constant interruption and addictive nature of many of these apps keep us from being productive. However, there is a growing movement to help consumers become more aware of how their smart devices hinder their productivity.
The Way Forward
Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, published a memo that covers his disenchanted views when it comes to the demands of technology. Appropriately titled, “Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention”, it goes over his belief that tech products weren’t designed with people’s best interests in mind. In 2016, he left Google to start a non-profit called Time Well Spent. Its mission is to solve the problems of the “attention economy.” Harris rebranded Time Well Spent as the Center for Humane Technology earlier this year. This digital wellness movement has spread throughout Silicon Valley. So much so that at Google I/O, Google’s developer’s conference, held this past month Google revealed a collection of features for Andriod called “digital well-being.”
These new Android features are designed to make your phone a little less addictive. There’s a new Android Dashboard, where one can track how much time is spent on your device. An App Timer to set limits on the amount of time spent in certain apps. A new gesture, called “Shush,” that switches your phone into Do Not Disturb when you set your phone face down. Finally, a “Wind Down” mode that flips your screen to grayscale around your designated bedtime. Many of these features are based on the best practices presented on the Time Well Spent website. There are visual cues that can help us taper off the screen and get back to living in the moment. I have posted a few suggestions presented below to those that wish to limit there screen time:
- Turn-off nonhuman notifications (i.e. unless there is another human trying to reach you on the other end, turn it off)
- Charge your device outside the bedroom (keeps you from “winding down” with infinite scrolling apps)
- Limit your home screen apps to everyday tools. (What apps do you actually use to get things done)
- Limit infinite scroll apps ( i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, etc.)
- Download the Moment app (great iOS app to monitor phone usage)
These are only a few suggestions that are on their site. Technology and our phones are just tools. If we take some time to focus on our digital wellness we won’t have to be subject to our screens. Technology doesn’t have to be a productivity drain. Nexxtep exists to be our clients trusted IT advisor. We focus on vetted solutions to solve real business challenges, operate more efficiently, and increase profitability. We hope that bringing this to your attention helps redirect your attention to the things that deserve your attention.