It’s official. Black Mirror has succeeded in making me want to put some controls around my smartphone use. As much as I love them, I have to admit, these darlings are distracting. I know that if my phone was a human being, I’d be fed up already by all the attention it demands.
Tristan Harris of Time Well Spent is an ex-Google Design Ethicist and an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities. He’s on a mission to help align technology with our humanity and improve the quality of our lives. Harris believes that instead of letting them rule your days, we can organize your phone to make it people-centric.
Watch as he shares some things you can do now to unhijack your mind by reorganizing your phone.
The cost of distraction
Harris is getting a lot of media attention for his efforts to bring awareness to the attention economy. Hopefully, he’s reaching more than a few people because I don’t think we realized the high cost of this distraction. Probably one of the highest cost is lower productivity. We’re also losing sleep, joy, good manners, and lifetime memories due to our phone addiction. When we’re not fully in the moment to experience it, we’re missing out on life. That thing that flashes before your eyes on your deathbed is gonna be blurry AF.
Self-awareness can help
If Harris’ interview sparks some interest, I suggest a one-day social media detox. If you notice a difference in how you spend your time maybe you’ll be more committed to organizing your phone.
Harris isn’t saying we need to give up social media and our beloved apps. Even though I’m too busy to use social media, I can see value in almost all of the popular apps: Facebook keeps me connected to friends and family on the east coast and around the world. Instagram is a photographer’s dream. I love Reese Witherspoon’s IG feed and yogi Lauren Williams (@laurenj.williams)’s too. And I love seeing how my dear friend Jo’s kids are growing up. I use Pinterest to save all sorts of design and style boards and spend waaaay too much time on YouTube watching (what else?) home makeovers or I’m trying to make sense of my natural hair. Twitter is not a favorite because there’s too much political noise over there, but I can see it’s value for some people and brands. Snapchat is like candy. There are quite a few apps that I use all the time that I’m not giving up any time soon.
It’s not about giving up our devices but about controlling its use.
Designed to be addictive
What Harris has learned after a decade researching the invisible influences of apps, however, is that we’ve let them take over and instead of managing them, we’ve let them manage us.
He is trying to make us aware that these dings and alerts on our phones are designed to be addictive. As with any addiction, they take away from, instead of enhancing our lives. And as with any addiction, once we’re hooked we still believe the initial benefit we got from our “drug” is still there.
An addictive mind easily loses focus. Addictive personalities are more prone to anxiety and depression. If you’re addicted to anything, you have an almost zero chance of reaching your potential, sticking to goals and healthier interests like sports, writing and learning a language.
The step-down method
Once you recognize your addiction and is ready to change, it will take some mind tricks to make it happen. A simple and very effective way to beat this type of addiction is with the step-down method.
Time well spent
Start using your phone to excel at something you’re interested in. Like photography? Educate yourself and put intention behind your photography and limit your social media to one or two photo-themed platforms.
- Take a few photography classes,
- Watch some YouTube videos,
- Read photography books and blogs.
- Learn how to excel on Instagram, and
- Shift your focus from generic posting to mastering IG and increasing your followers.
Because you love photography and is doing what you love, you’ll distract yourself and spend less time on the other apps. Want to learn a language? The same principles apply and there are apps for that!
And check out Tristan’s tips to organize the dings on your phone to alert you only to those people and things you really really care about.