Smartphones are the new Cigarettes? Really?

According to Mark Manson they are

Its quite alarmist title but to be fair his recent book “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” (I have started reading this book btw) also sums up a lot; although his blog about feminism really spoke to me.

The start of Marks arguement stems from going to gym and having people checking their phone in the middle of a session.

And the coach got pissed, yelled at them to put their fucking phones away, and we all stood around awkwardly.

This proceeded to happen two or three times in the class, as it does in pretty much every class, and for whatever reason, today I decided to speak my mind to the women glued to her phone while the rest of us were working out:

Is there really nothing in your life that can’t wait 30 minutes? Or are you curing cancer or something?

Point taken (although I did that nervous laugh when first reading this). I have lots of thoughts about this myself too, especially after coming back from Tokyo. I’ve been grappling with it and started thinking maybe I’m just getting old?

Smoking & Texting

I have been reading Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together book and haven’t even got to the part about smartphones yet. I’m still early in the book about robots and how we are react to them. Fascinating and slightly scary in someways.

Mark calls it Attention pollution

…somebody else’s inability to focus or control themselves then interferes with the attention and focus of those around them.

Then goes into detail…

…with the explosion in smart devices and internet available pretty much everywhere from Timbuktu to your mother’s ass crack, attention pollution is infiltrating our daily lives more and more without us realizing it.

It’s why we get annoyed at dinner when someone starts texting in front of us. It’s why we get pissed off when someone pulls their phone out in a movie theater. It’s why we become irritated when someone is checking their email instead of watching the ballgame.

Their inability to focus interferes with our (already-fragile) ability to focus. The same way second-hand smoke harms the lungs of people around the smoker, smartphones harm the attention and focus of people around the smartphone user. It hijacks our senses. It forces us to pause our conversations and redouble our thoughts unnecessarily. It causes us to lose our train of thought and forget that important point we were constructing in our head. It erodes at our ability to connect and simply be present with one another, destroying intimacy in the process.

Ok I hear you MarkAttention is precious thing, I’ve said this for years in blog posts and presentations around perceptive media.

Human attention is a scarce commodity

But I disagree on something and you would expect so as a person who finds it slight weird being offline for too long.

Its about choice, social norms and context.

For example I am writing this blog in Ezra & Gil coffee shop with no headphones listening to conversations around me. Ezra includes free wifi from Telecom which you need to click on every hour or so. Theres plugs around the sides of the Cafe, on the high tables best suited for laptop users. While I was in Iceland I spent sometime Reykjavik Roasters which has no wifi deliberately to encourage a different kind of environment. I could have gone around the block to one of the many Te & Kaffi’s but choose to give it a try (choice).

Back to Ezra, some of the conversations are person to person, some are video chat via phone or laptop (these tend to be quieter – social norms). I personally find this more useful for my own mind when writing and thinking. Hence I regularly work out of the northern quarter to help me think. However I don’t want someone on their smartphone while in the cinema (contextual).

Its helped having a smartwatch and I deliberately delay most of my notifications.

Simple but slightly naive solution to Mark gym problem. The coach makes it clear at the start what kind of attention is required. The people then have a choice if they take part or not. If this is broken social norm will take effect. If the notification is so big it cant be ignored, context will mean you can’t carry on anyway.

I do agree there is a problem but comparing it to smoking isn’t quite right in my head. Yes people fill in the silences by looking at their phones, yes I find ringtones in public very annoying (who has their phone on anything but vibrate now a days?) and yes there is a big problem with notifications. But unlike smoking there are big benefits to smartphones too (unlike smoking).

With the right amount of self control, context awareness and established social norms; it could be something incredible. But then we get into what they are actually doing on the phone which is a whole different blog.

Stop making stupid people famous

Just say hello…

Bemused 1

One day I’ll meet Sarah Ryan, as she gives some great advice, this one included. The last point resonated with me .

Just Say Hello There is a chance, dare I say it, that you may come across someone dashingly handsome or delightfully beautiful in your local coffee shop or whilst picking up a loaf of bread at Waitrose. What is the worst that can happen if you just say hello, ask for the time or ask where they purchased an item they are donning? It may seem like a daunting task but we can not hide behind our laptops & iphones forever in dating- we do have to tackle the human element to make a relationship work. Top Tip:  Try saying hello to someone new everyday, wherever, whenever. You never know who you might meet!

Absolutely…!

Sarah is right, the thing which mainly stops people is the fear of rejection. I was showing my blog about myself to a colleague a while ago and they asked me, what goes through my mind when I do the things I do?

I said, I do have that level of fear which naturally comes to everybody but I dampen it down quickly and not let it fester in my mind. I feel the longer you let it fester, the more likely you won’t act or so anything.

But on the same point, the opportunities and experiences I have had, make it even easier to do it again and push myself even further.

The other day I was in North Tea Power with my headphones off as usual, working away on visual perceptive media. I heard a women next to me talking on the phone, but she happen to say….

Things would be so much easier if there was one ontology for everything….

After she finished, before the fear crept in, I repeated back to her the statement and added a question mark to it (aka raised my voice at the end) From that moment we were off talking for about 20mins. Learned a lot about her and she may have learned a lot about me. Such a lovely conversation we had…

Funny enough (on a related note) Sherry Turkle has been popping up here and there recently…

I bought her excellent book Alone Together and haven’t started on the new one, reclaiming conversation.

I was listening to the Tech news today #1418 special with her and happen to tweet it, when Martin pointed out she was on Radio 4 at that exact moment (the beauty of serendipity and being open to it)

So I checked it out,  BBC Radio 4 today,. Interesting stuff… Expect another blog entry about this and more Sherry Turkle thoughts soon..

Growing worries about our tech driven culture from Aziz

Friendly Conversation

You can add Aziz Ansari to the growing list of people reconsidering the effects of our technology on our culture. He joins Sherry Turkle and Andrew Keen with his latest book…

Modern Romance, an interesting book full of interesting research about how people meet, and mate, in the modern world.

First heard about on the Freakonomics podcast

I’ll be checking it out soon… as it looks like a good one.

…The rest of the book deals with online dating, dumping, sexting, cheating and snooping on your partner, all of which have been made easier by the rise of the smartphone and the private world we create behind its screen. This is territory already explored by theorists such as Danah Boyd and Sherry Turkle and OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, but Ansari helpfully masticates their findings down for a general audience. He is neither a tech evangelist nor a luddite: the gadgets might be constantly updating, but human nature is slower to change.

Apple have lost the plot

iPad 2 as a Video Camera

I have been meaning to write about those disgusting Apple adverts (yes disgusting, I was almost sick in my mouth when I first saw it) but been so busy, then Maggie reminded me at Hacked.io about what I wanted to say.

Fast Design write up pretty much how I feel

Watch the ad closely for me. As we’re told that products are what matter, we see a series of shots in which people actively turn away from life to engage with their technology.

  • A woman closes her eyes on the subway to soak in electronic music.
  • A room of students looks down at their desks instead of at their teacher.
  • A parent and child cuddle, focused on a screen that’s so powerful it illuminates the kid’s face.
  • A couple kisses in the rain, then immediately turn away to look at a phone.
  • A tourist opts to FaceTime instead of bathing in visceral, smoky yakitori.

In what should be a warm, humanizing montage, people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels. They’re choosing the experience of their products over the experience of other people several times in quick succession. And Apple has a warm voice in the background, goading us on.

Now I’m fully aware most adverts are like this but frankly for Apple, this is bad bad news.

On top of that, the fact Apple are advertising this factor, is worst still. So much for creativity…!

Just to be clear the best adverts in this class were the Orange adverts, which never showed the actual device but rather the effect of the device. Now unfortunately Orange or rather EE have switched to another style which isn’t much better than most.

The technology should be the glue not the end point. However Apple want you to marvel at there devices. I’m not certain when this changed but its certainly changed for the worst.

Have to be clear I’m not against devices, heck if you follow this down the line you can end up somewhere with Sherry Turkle.

Our devices and software are great but I have to echo some of the thoughts about using your mobile while dating and dare I say it, some of the Orange Cinema adverts. Don’t let your device get in the way of a great time. No matter how pretty it maybe.

Its not going to take 20 years… Its outdated and shockingly backwards already…

Could farmville be the cruel deception?

Sherry Turkle

I still love IT Conversations for programmes like Tech Nation, I had never heard of Sherry Turkle till today (or at least I’d never paid attention).

Dr. Moira Gunn talks with author and MIT Professor, Sherry Turkle, about her new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other. In it, she talks about how peoples relationships with their devices is effective their human relationships.

In the interview Sherry talks about her book (which I’m thinking about buying as my first Kindle DRM ebook) and at the end she gets on to the subject of the cruel deception of live enough AI.

I’ve discussed to death the onslaught of social games on Facebook and other systems and my ultimate hate for them but it was on the techgrumps podcast. When Sherry mentioned the cruel deception of live enough AI, this for me is exactly that and one of the saddest things you can imagine.

The notion of grandparents using farmville because they were too old to maintain a proper garden.

Theres no words which sums up this reality more that a cruel deception…