This topic has been on my mind a lot today as well as on and off over the course of several years. I’m part luddite, so it’s not uncommon for me to have rash moments of “chuck all the technology” style thinking from time to time. Today I read a great article on Wired’s website titled, “How I Got My Attention Back” which reminded me of exactly why I sometimes get fed up with my cell phone addiction. The article goes in-depth into one individual’s frustrations with our incessant connection to phones and the internet, etc., and takes the reader through his experience going offline for a month.
So the conundrum is, how do we lessen our dependence (or obsession) with smartphones while still being realistic and true to our modern age in which they are so ubiquitous? We can’t all simply go offline for a month while we stay at an artist’s community like the author of the article. Both from that article and from discussion with a friend of mine, I’ve discovered several small ways to combat the constant distraction of the smartphone.
The method which was relayed to me by a friend was this- he told me about an article he read in which a former design ethicist from Google compared technological design to that of a slot machine – notifications from apps provide a “reward” type stimulus to us as users, which is very much like gambling. If we check it frequently we may be rewarded. And this same person suggests one way to lessen this addiction is by making the screen grayscale. The idea is that if your phone is black and white, many of your apps will seem less stimulating and appealing. I’ve tried it all day today and I have to attest that it has made a difference.
From the aforementioned article, the author acknowledges the importance of technology and makes a compromise that most of us could uphold (at least with our smartphones). The deal is this: no phones right before bed and through the following day until after lunchtime. I think the main reason for this time frame is due to the importance of our waking ritual. The way you wake up can determine how the rest of your day will go. This quote from the article I found particularly poignant:
“There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between a day that begins with a little exercise, a book, meditation, a good meal, a thoughtful walk, and the start of a day that begins with a smartphone in bed.”
Another, albeit more curious way to possibly put cell phone addiction to rest is an idea dreamt up by designer Klemens Schillinger. It’s a “substitute phone” with tactile, physical parts that move and function basically as a fidget spinner for adults. Take a look at them here. They’re not readily available yet, but could this be where we’re headed?
My goal is to try to implement these small ways of fighting smartphone addiction and see if I’m more aware of the world around me. That, and similar to the original Luddites destroying weaving machinery, maybe I’ll delete Instagram while I’m at it, too.