On and off, I’ve been using iOS’s accessibility feature for people with color perception issues. I’ve been using it as an intentional hurdle for keeping my eyes on my phone. I’m not sure if I discovered that independently or if I read that somewhere and then started using it. I’ve had the setting turned on for about a month now, and returning it to full color mode from time to time for some specific use that requires color can be a bit startling. The UI is almost cartoonish to me when I switch back.
If you’re curious there have been a couple others who have talked about this tactic before me.
- Lifehacker: Change Your Screen to Grayscale to Combat Phone Addiction
- The Guardian: Will turning your phone to greyscale really do wonders for your attention?
The Guardian article concludes with a mixed result. Both articles mention Tristan Harris, a former Google employee who has been quite visible in the crusade against tech addiction. Personally, I’m more of an optimist about technology than those who claim it’s harm. Despite the occasional dip into the comments sections under YouTube or some article that pumps the brakes for me, I do believe that technology does a better job at making and maintaining meaningful relationships between people. However, today’s writing doesn’t deal with the optimism. There really is a legitimate category of reasons to temper technology usage. As the smart phone is, and has been for years, many people’s most personal computer, it all centers on that family of device.
Hope Reese, writing for Vox, has an interview with Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. The interview spends quite a bit of time on the neurological impact of social media and smartphone notifications (the “dopamine hit”). That theme of a neurological foundation for technologically bound connectivity repeats in recent readings.
Sean Illing, also writing for Vox, has an interview with Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants that discusses the intentionally drive for developers to make their app, software, or platform as engaging as possible to keep attention.
There were a couple passages from the interview that I found interesting or thought provoking:
I trace the source of the attention industry to a couple of major developments. The first was the invention of the penny press newspaper in the 1870s — the idea of a paper that you gave away for very cheap, loaded up with sensational stories. And it then relied on advertising revenue to keep it afloat. This was the invention of a model that now powers Facebook and Google and every form of commercial media.
The historical aspect was interesting. In the interview, he takes a quick trip through the lineage of different aspects of the “attention industry”.
I think we need to rethink our entire media environment. I know that people don’t want to pay for stuff, but if we, the public, want better, we have to begin paying for more of it. I strongly believe that.
Look, we need to suck it up and pay for quality journalism and quality content and just forget about this everything’s-going-to-be-free-forever culture. It really hasn’t worked. It’s been an experiment, and I think it’s gone well in some ways, but it has led us into an abyss.
I remember this argument being brought up in the early days of home Internet, the dial up days. A couple decades into the future and there still aren’t many people who are willing to pay a couple dollars a month to avoid advertisements, specifically the kind that track the reader around the web.
Following all of that, there are two articles that I liked to read about curing the smart phone addiction (I’m still not sold that the phrase “smartphone addiction” isn’t anything more than hyperbole) done with - a smartphone.
Katie Bloom writing for The Outline: We can make you put your phone down and Nick Greene writing for VICE: I Tried to Cure My Smartphone Addiction Using My Smartphone. Greene tries the greyscale trick that I wrote about before and had that backfire. Both mention Forest a very popular app that encourages a person to not use their smartphone, rewarding them by growing a cartoon tree.
I started all of this reading as a part of my continual evaluation of my direct relationship with my personal technology utilization and its direct and indirect effects on my relationships with individuals, society, cultural, and, frankly, reality around me. I think that in my middle school days I’d spend more time on my family’s 486/33 than I have been able to consistently spend on my iPhone, which may be a good measure of my relationship with technology. However, I think that I’ll wrap this up with a few items that I’ve done which has cultivated a more healthy (in my opinion) relationship with my tech.
- Cut back or eliminate social media usage. I have a personal project that directly benefits from social media usage, but aside from that, any sort of personal gains from social media, for me, is now close to null. I know too many level headed people (self included) who get too brave behind the keyboard, and it damages relationships. No one does even casual vetting of whatever garbage they’re posting and accepts fraudulent information as gospel. The destruction of Facebook and Twitter and their cousins would be welcome news to me.
- Cut back on opinions. Dovetailing with the previous bullet point, I’ve now started to ask myself, if I have an opinion, does it matter enough to share? Typically the answer is - no. There are certainly things that I’m passionate about and things that I believe that voices need to be heard on for change, but every single person who uses the Internet has seen or participated in a squabble over something that does. not. matter. And some of those aforementioned squabbles break down into an incivility that dwarfs the value of what is being discussed. Furthermore, deliberately devaluing my own opinions then extrapolates to others. If I’m not going to get my blood pressure up over someone not liking my favorite sous vide cooker, I’m not going to care about someone else’s opinion on their favorite box cutter.
- Trash software that you don’t use. From the Patrick Rhone school of thought, I only keep the software on my phone that I may actually use at some point in the immediate future. Yelp used to me a maintain on my phone, but if I’m not planning on going somewhere in the next week or beyond that I need to educate myself on the nearby restaurants, it’s deleted. Re-downloading it takes just a few taps. That’s just one example.
- Turn off notifications for things that you don’t need notified of immediately. Text messaging and phone calls are the only items on my phone that get the privilege of alerting me to something right now. Everything else that can notify me is done silently and I’ll find the red badge later. I look at the screen on my phone on my terms, not its.
- Being okay with abandoning my phone while home. If I’m in for the weekend, leaving my phone on a charger somewhere is just fine. It doesn’t have to be on my person. I’m not going to miss anything. If someone unexpectedly call, I’ll get back to them. If it’s an emergency, they’d better learn I’m not the right person to call for solving their emergency.