The current generation of smartphones is concerned about your becoming too addicted to their many charms, also known as apps.
On iPhones, for example, when the Screen Time setting is turned on, you can set voluntary time limits on app usage, and see Weekly Reports that quantify in minutes just how helplessly dependent we are on the cute little digital device that has become as essential to modern existence as keys and wallet.
Actually, since there are apps for paying with your phone, you can ditch the wallet, too. It won’t be long before opening cars and doors with an app will be commonplace as well. We’re living through an age of digital Darwinism, and the smartphone stands alone as the only device we need to get through the day. That, of course, is a double-edged sword.
A recent British study, according to online publication Strategy + Business, determined that we pick up our devices every 12 minutes, or about 80 times a day. That’s all? Another source says we check digital platforms up to 150 times a day.
The same publication cites other studies that indicate “people enjoy social situations less when they keep their smartphones with them.” Companies in some instances are telling employees not to bring their devices into meetings, for obvious reasons. The irony there is that devices designed to optimize our productivity also can undermine it when misused, such as causing distractions in a business conference.
“Digital distraction” is a phrase heard more often these days. Googling those two words produces nearly 40 million results.
Another study, from Pew Research Center (per Strategy + Business), tells us that “15 percent of adults believe [their smartphone] is impairing their focus at work,” adding that “Sales of so-called dumb phones, which can be used for calls and texts but cannot connect to the internet, are rising.”
The problem is becoming serious enough that it has birthed an organization that calls itself the Center for Humane Technology. The stated mission, as displayed on its website humanetech.com, is “Realigning technology with humanity’s best interests.”
The center, somewhat not surprisingly, was formed by a cadre of technologists who state that “Together, we can get technology platforms to stop hijacking our minds and start putting our well-being first.”
The founders and staff of the Center for Human Technology are people who have worked inside the dominant digital platforms, so they know intimately how they operate and, maybe more important, how they are “vulnerable to manipulation” by so-called bad actors, who create “millions of fake accounts and bots impersonating people with real-sounding names and photos, fooling millions with the false impression of consensus.” Odds are all of us at one time or another have shared a social media post that we thought was authentic, and it wasn’t. (As we’ve been duly warned, Russia already is at it again, for the 2020 election.)
I encourage you to check out the Center for Humane Technology website humanetech.com. You’ll find some nifty features, such as App Ratings. One list of apps is rated as making people “Most Happy” (Calm is No. 1, followed by, curiously enough, Google Calendar). A second list of apps is rated as making people “Most Unhappy” (Grindr tops that list, followed by Candy Crush Saga and Facebook.)
The site also lists a bunch of apps whose purpose is to “help you live without distraction.” My favorite is NoMoRoBo, which—you guessed it—blocks robocalls.
There is one suggestion on the site, however, that sounds highly implausible, if not impossible: “Go cold turkey: Remove social media from your phone.”
Good luck with that one.
On the other hand, I do like turkey… hmm.
Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at email@example.com or 914-275-6887.