Are we addicted to technology?
Definitely a lot more than we would like to admit. Tristan Harris formerly of Google warned that apps and websites were not gifts from the IT Gods to help build a better world, but instead designed to put slot machines in our pockets and he famously said, “The problem is not that people lack willpower, it’s that there are thousands of people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation that you have”.
It’s clear that the addictive properties on social media are not accidental but are designed to serve a purpose. Facebook’s notification symbol used to be a blue icon but the more studies that were conducted and they understood how humans interact with technology they changed the colour off the notification to an alarming red colour which resulted in clicks sky rocketing. Moreover, why is that so many tech giants such as Steve Jobs have ultra-strict rules surrounding technology use?
If you cast your mind back to the 90s there would have been quite a few people walking around with a Sony Walkman. Today, it’s very different with a huge amount of people putting in earbuds as they walk out the door, many with the hope of not having to talk to another human. The iPod/Smartphone provides an ability to be continuously distracted from your own mind and never alone with your thoughts. It also limits any random conversations and meeting with other people. Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego highlighted that the soaring rate of teenage depression and suicide can mainly be put down to the increase in teenagers owning their own smartphones. As she says, “humans are not wired to be constantly wired”.
When it comes to working life, email has become such a burden. It’s a depressing statistic that the average office email is opened on average every six seconds and employees check their account on average 36 times every hour. This was not the original aim of email.
We know that this addiction to technology is not good for our health, relationships, our ability to think, sleep and much more but we are also aware that we are basically fighting a losing battle. Tell someone you are deleting your Facebook account and they will tell you about how much you will miss, but no one will mention how much time you will save. Ask yourself what you would do waiting at a bus stop, travelling on a train or waiting for your friend inside a coffee shop if you didn’t have your phone? We are being drawn in even more, by WhatsApp groups, Instagram, email, Snapchat or whatever social apps you got going on, so what do we do? Having read many solutions, many seem too draconian as a starting point, but here are some things that I have done which has given me a huge amount of time back in my week. Maybe it’s a good idea that you don’t try all of these at once:
No Pop Ups:
Stop all notifications appearing on your phone and pc (email pop-ups are a productivity curse); be in control of everything, so you go into WhatsApp when you want to, not every time you get a notification. The only things truly urgent on your are the phone calls and to some extent text messages. I know many people replace text with WhatsApp but let’s be honest, it its urgent they will get you on the phone and maybe you miss one or two things but this can happen anyway. When it comes to your email – ensure it never highlights when you have new emails, this is very easy to set up on your phone and means you don’t click on the email icon every time that you’ve got mail. Remember an email is not urgent, it doesn’t require immediate attention.
No Phone by the Bed:
Ideally you should leave your phone in a completely different room such as the kitchen or the living room when you decide to go to bed. No generation before us ever needed this level of connectivity so why are we so special. Sleep is the most important daily activity to get right. If you find that this shocking is a little too drastic then at the very least just try and put the phone more than an arms reach away. It will improve your sleep, your mood, your productivity and much more.
Take Apps & Passwords Off Your Phone:
You notice with many social media sites that you mainly check them on your smartphone. Take access to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn etc away from your phone and just have access from your computer. It seems quite daunting at the beginning but you will be amazed how much more you will read, think, talk to others when there is no pull to go online every opportunity that you get. For some, it may also mean deleting other addictive apps, or whatever your number one time consumer is (For some people it’s often gaming apps, not just social apps).
Leave Group Chats:
Take yourself out of group texts. This may seem very hard as people are constantly adding you to new groups and you need to be strict about taking yourself away from them. In order to prevent yourself from getting distracted you need to just remove yourself from the situation. You can join these groups when needed but not all year round, again you may feel you are missing out, but you often forget the time that you are saving. If something is of immediate importance then I am sure that someone from the group will reach out to you individually to inform you, you don’t need to be a lifelong member of this WhatsApp group.
We understand everyone’s circumstances are different. These are just a few suggestions, not a roadmap for everyone. Once you adjust to these lifestyle changed ask yourself how much spare time do you now have, how much extra time do you have to spend with your partner, kids, exercising, take up a new hobby? Ask yourself how many random conversations do you find yourself getting involved in? Finally ask yourself if you look at your phone when you are just bored (think about how worrying that is). It’s not good to be constantly busy/distracted or plugged in so make a conscious effort to change, as it is harder than you think but well worth it, and if you don’t start soon it might be too late.
Peter Cosgrove / Published on July 17, 2019
Keynote Speaker on the Future of Work, Diversity, Talent, Technology