You’ve just spent 45 minutes making dinner preparations for your family:
The kids are eating or talking or maybe even whining. You and your spouse are attempting to have a conversation about the events of the day.
Your phone is a few feet away on the counter and it catches your attention as it lights up and dings. Are you compelled to check it, tempted by the urge to see what the notification was? Do you reach for it? Even if you don’t reach for it, are you still distracted considering what it might be notifying you of rather than engaging with your family at the table?
I was a late adopter of social media. I don’t have an Instagram account and have a whopping 39 followers on Twitter. My FB account was created in 2015, I post to it once or twice a week and sometimes not even that. I do, however, scroll through my news feed. Often I note the time and think, “Just 5 minutes,” only to find myself engrossed and still scrolling 15, 20, even 30 minutes later. Where does that unplanned time come from? Usually those precious minutes are stolen from sleep, time with my husband and kids or doing something else productive. At the dinner table scenario above? I DID check my phone. But WHY?
Why do I keep scrolling?
Why do I let notifications distract me?
Why have I lost the ability to sit for a moment and not look at my phone?
Because, according to the Center for Humane Technology, "These apps are not neutral products. They are part of a system designed to addict us."
At the start of the new year, I fasted from social media for 28 days. During that time I discovered the website TimeWellSpent.io – reintroduced earlier this week (02.05.18) as the Center for Humane Technology. They are “dedicated to reversing the digital attention crisis, and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests.” Many (not all) technology companies and apps make their money by the amount of time we spend using them. They are “free” for us to use because they make money through ad revenue, so the more time we spend in the app the more lucrative for the company. This means that they must design features to keep us engaged and to entice us to re-engage. Visit the Center for Humane Technology website to learn the realities of the addictive and manipulative design choices of the apps you likely use.
In November 2017, The Guardian published an article titled, Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human 'vulnerability'.* A direct quote from that article: “Facebook’s founders knew they were creating something addictive that exploited 'a vulnerability in human psychology' from the outset, according to the company’s founding president Sean Parker.”
I knew this, but I didn’t REALLY know the extent of it. I had no idea that we can’t use willpower to deny our urge to grab our phones because the apps are designed to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology! If we want to reclaim our time and our thoughts, we need to make real changes. Knowledge is power and I have the power to say, “No thank you!” to technology that aims to steal my thoughts and time.
Here are some actual changes I have implemented (these and other suggestions can be found at the CHT Take Control link):
- Turned off FB notifications
- Turned off all twitter notifications that were coming to me via text message
- Reconfigured my tools and apps, making intentional choices on what is on the first screen of my phone (calling, camera, calendar, clock, text messaging, Yip Yap app, email, podcast, weather, Bible).
- Turned my phone screen to gray-scale to limit its colorful appeal, (when I want to see something in color I can toggle back to color with three quick taps).
I decided to write this post to share what I have learned and the actions I have taken to reclaim my thoughts and time. I know I’m not alone in my struggle, this information is proof: How we feel after spending lengths of time on certain apps. Are any of your most used apps on that list?
The changes I have made to the device that I carry with me have begun to free my thoughts and my time from the snares of technology, and it feels great! Allow me to encourage you to consider your own relationship with technology. Can you picture yourself making choices that will lead to a healthier you?
How do I reconcile this as the founder of a technology company? Check out this blog where we share Yip Yap’s statement on our commitment to the well-being of kids!
*Solon, Olivia. “Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human 'vulnerability'.” The Guardian, n.p. 9 Nov 2017. Web. 5 Feb 2018.