Tips for dealing with our unhealthy smartphone addiction?

Smartphones and shadows.

Originally I wanted to write a massive blog connecting the last blog about Thintelligenece, Tristan harris‘ essay reply, what I picked out of the quantified self, my thoughts following visiting Tokyo, Mark Manson’s smartphones are the new cigarettes and reading Alone together.

I found this from dating site review ages ago and it seems apt…

“The problem doesn’t lie with dating apps per se – technology in general is changing how we behave and interact. People are spending more time updating and commenting on their social media accounts than they are having actual conversations or meeting up with people IRL. Take a look at any bar or restaurant, and inevitably you see a group of people at a table, and none of them are talking to each other – they are staring at their phones.”

Theres a common theme that maybe our use of smartphones might not be all its cracked up to be? However I don’t really need to tell you this right? The amount of times I have walked into a lift in the last week, looked around to see glowing faces and no eye contact at all is quite scary as purely a thought experiment. I’m currently at about 90% looking at screens – if you were wondering.

Its quite easy to be slightly concerned, but I’m wondering why my phone usage pick up during the first day of the Quantified Self 2017 conference in comparison? Could there be something in the way I use my phone?

Quantified Self 2017
People put up their hands for how long they were on their phones during the conference

Not only this Aaron Parecki gave a talk about choices when choosing quantified self equipment or packages (as Justin said being things which are a mix of hardware, software and service). There seems to be some tips emerging between the 3 different sources.

So I thought I’d share them together.

smartphones looks

    • Lower the brightness, use some-kind of twilight mode or turn your screen to greyscale.
      As Tristan Harris says apps and operating systems are made to keep you looking and interacting for longer. They have this down to a science now. Theres also tons of research indicating that the blue light from LCD screens messes with your sleep routine, heck I swear by redshift and twilight. The greyscale is interesting too.
    • Turn off all sound and light alerts (vibrate will do)
      I’m totally shocked when I hear someones ring tone to be honest, I mean really? I turned off all notification lights from day one, so surprised when I see a flashing or strobing light on other peoples phones.
    • Turn off that stupid mode when it wakes up your phone screen to show you notifications.
      I always thought it was a iphone thing but seen it on Androids too. I honestly think so stupid as its battery zapping and ever so distracting. This also totally kills the doze mode on Android! Plus think about it, it lasts about 5 secs and if someone sends you a detailed message, you only get half the message forcing you to pick up the phone.

My Shadow

      • Put different apps on another phone, tablet device or smartwatch.
        My tablet is wifi only and has a very different set of apps and use. I also limit what kind of alerts I get on my pebble smartwatch, which also means I don’t need to look at my phone for the time. I had no idea the ipad doesn’t include a calculator? Each device is different and has a different purpose, there are apps which I wouldn’t dare put on my phone but I’d consider it for my tablet.
      • Don’t feel guilty for not picking up the phone!
        The guilt people put themselves under is out of control, no one will notice if you reply 5, 15, 30, 60mins later. You don’t need to reply straight away, unless you are expecting something or trying to get hold of someone.

    It Begins with Bonjour

    • Have some self-control
      Don’t use your phone as a (anti) social crutch; barrier between the physical world and you. I get the loneliness is a difficult and maybe social settings make you feel uncomfortable? But force yourself to be present in the moment, you might be missing an opportunity.
    • Don’t put your phone on the table
      I get it, Doze only works when your phone is flat and left alone for a while but since Android N it now works in your pocket. I use to do this all the time to save battery, at the end of a long conversation it would actually be stone cold! If you must, keep your screen facing down and don’t get tempted to unlock it (You should of course not have that stupid wake the screen up mode too!).
      smartphone
    • Think about your time as important
      It sounds silly when you think about it but our attention is finite and should be treated as important. When thinking about ourselves, we tend to put ourselves down, saying I’m no one special but to be frank we are important! Everyone of us are capable of such incredible things but not if we are all looking at our phones.
    • Think about what you are doing with your phone
      Are you simply filling time or doing something constructive with your time? No judgment about what you class as constructive but adding a like to a friends profile picture can wait. I recently tried to get a friend to do more constructive things with his phone but the continuous (endless/bottomless) stream of social notifications was too great it seems.
    • Stop with the selfies!
      Ok this is just my thing but if you can’t turn to a stranger and ask to take a picture, then something is seriously wrong! Live a little maybe that conversation might turn into something you wasn’t expected. Think about those Snapchat filters, encouraging you to act a certain way... Its not subtle but people get caught up in it and don’t think, and this is what the app maker wants from you. I’ll remind you of the fruit machine flow state which Natasha Dow Schüll, talks about in her book addicted by design.
      Smartphone
    • Stop with phone one upmanship
      I have seen too many times when someone shows something, then someone else pulls out their phone in response. Before long everyone has their phone out looking to out do each other. Theres even silence while everyone looks and pops up for social proof every once in a while.
  • Theres many more
  • …but that will do for now. If you can think of more, add a comment and I’ll likely do a updated blog with more soon.

Alone together forever with the narcissistic?

Tokyo from the Skytree

There is something not quite right about the whole selfies thing. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it unlocks something much deeper and more troubling…

Its all about me

The selfie thing, I do find it self indulgent and dare I say it – slightly narcissistic in nature.

Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from the Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Maybe instead of a pool of water, its a reflection of yourself in a 533 DPI mobile screen?  I don’t think everyone who does a selfie are inherently doing it for narcissistic reasons. Let me be clear about that. But there is something not quite right about seeing friends Selfies all over my facebook timeline of nothing more than people trying to style things out in front of a mirror. Then you get the likes or +1’s.  Finally you got the millions of selfie sticks being sold and used by people who should know better… its enough to  makes you wonder, right?

While in Tokyo, I saw a lot of selfie sticks and lots of people using them. There use seem to go from a picture with friends to a slightly more worrying shot after shot after shot of them self till they got the right one to share. One guy must have taken about 30 pictures before he was happy with one of them. I know because I was watching him on his super bright iPhone 6  plus.

Its about you… alone

As you can imagine I’m not the only one thinking this.

What greater testament could there be to the “me generation” than the rise and rise of the selfie? Anointed by Oxford Dictionaries’ editors as the word of the year after a 17,000% increase in its usage, the selfie is surely the ultimate emblem of the age of narcissism.

One of the names I’m most unlikely to align with is Andrew Keen. I have slammed Andrew in the past for his views on the internet. But it kills me to say, he makes some good points on  Twit.tv’s Triangulation 183. I’m sure his new book will still have me and many others shaking our heads, I haven’t read his book and are unlikely to buy it to be honest but he’s spot on about the use of algorithms and the selfie thing.

Tokyo from up high

While on my trip to Tokyo I took a few selfies. I never quite feel good about it, my face generally describe how I felt about the whole thing. I also started to wonder if the break down in our social humanity (if people like sherry turkle are correct) can be seen ahead of time in Tokyo?

Japan is always known as way ahead of the curve. When most of us were still using desktops and laptops to connect the internet, residents of Japan were using their phones. Theres many other examples but I spotted something which deeply worries me. Sherry Turkle’s connected alone was playing out everywhere you went.

Selfie Sticks

I was in the queue for a rollercoaster and 4 guys were standing in silence through out the whole 40-50min queue. There were each transfixed to their phones not uttering a single word till we finally got on the ride and then they were best buds, laughing and chatting away. I saw them again later (the theme park wasn’t that busy and isn’t that big – about the size of Thorpe Park) and it was more of the same.  They may have been playing the same game but together they were alone.

Alone together

Sad as it may be (you could say its part of the Japanese culture, but I’m not so sure), you are seeing more and more of this. And its not just a age thing. The online world can be very seductive and some people forget the offline world for many reasons. Maybe things are difficult there, things are not going so well, they can be somebody else? Theres a load of reasons.

Two pieces I have saved in my instapaper, really got me going…

One is via Tony Churnside10 Reasons Why This Generation Is Losing The Ability To Be In Love.

Every individual in the world is egocentric; we all think about our needs and ourselves first and foremost. Whether this is good or bad doesn’t really matter; the world is the way it is. It’s part of human nature.The problem arises when our egocentricity overtakes our ability to feel empathy. As human beings, we have no choice but to live and function within society, within communities of different sizes.

And I found the next one while following links on a site called Thought catalogueThis is the new loneliness

Our generation of sadness and loneliness is of the unchecked variety. Of wallowing. Of letting ourselves be disconnected from both others and ourselves. Learning to soothe more than heal. Learning to put a band-aid on problems instead of working through and solving our problems. If something is not immediate, we don’t want it, even if it’ll make us stronger. We’re not growing as people, not really. We’re shoving away “bad feelings” we don’t want to face by clicking, refreshing, scrolling until we’ve numbed ourselves out enough. It’s addiction.

We cut ourselves off from others, avoiding contact with outsiders. How scared are we? That we are not willing to hand over our camera and talk to (maybe) a familiar stranger?  Who knows what fruitful conversations may spring up because of that moment/encounter/opportunity? But we will never know because we are too focused on our virtual selves.

Sherry Turkle and Andrew Keen could have wrote either and I would somewhat believe it was them.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Virtual friends and likes

This should go without saying because there has been so much said about virtual friends, buddy lists, likes, +1’s, follower counts,  etc. And this is also where the difference between Narcissism (the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes) and Egocentrism (the inability to differentiate between self and other).

I use narcissism because I feel it requires other people to breed as such. Its also something we shouldn’t be heading towards. I can deal with a room of egocentric people for a short while, but a room of narcissists is deeply worrying.

Its all pretty troubling but I have hope for humanity. I feel like its a craze right now. The market can sell more goods you don’t actually need. The drive has always been to make us feel less empowered and cut us off from each other. A disfranchised citizen makes a good consumer?  Retreating to the wall gardens of the 5 stacks.

My hope is we will have more which saddle between the real and virtual worlds and operate in a open fashion. I believe the user interfaces we build, shapes our use and therefore it shapes us – ontological design. From the Cluetrain

#79 –  We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

Warning!

This was written and scheduled during a 17 hour flight with very little actual sleep (trying to adjust to GMT as soon as I get off the plane). I’m very tired and I am likely to be connecting things in a very weird way (not like that never happens eh?). But I do feel like there is a link and worth posting…