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Smart phone addiction is the big problem of this century, eating into a lot of productive and free time. Here’s what one woman did to deal with it.
I just finished reading a book on habit forming technologies including email, social media and online gaming. The book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover unravels how these technologies hook the consumers to these platforms. In one of the chapters, the authors ask an interesting question that got my attention. It was –
“What do you think these habit forming products are – Vitamins or Painkillers?”
Well, my sense is that most of us would have guessed that these are Vitamins, ‘good-to-have’ for our digital well-being. However, contrary to what most of us would have thought, these actually are Painkillers – that solve a problem, address an immediate need. A need to be connected.
So I pondered a little more on this and realized that while these were created as Painkillers to address a specific need, some of us have, over the years, unconsciously, embraced them as Vitamins; vitamins that we gulp-up each morning, not actually thinking if they are making an impact on our digital health.
The ability to distinguish ‘good-to-have-vitamins’ from ‘must-have-painkillers’ is something that I feel we are lacking in today’s 24/7 connected world. There is a thin line between being connected to being con-addicted – addicted to be connected!
Ian Bogost, an author and a game designer calls the wave of habit forming-technologies the “cigarette of this century” and warns of their addictive and potentially destructive side effects.
A recent study by Deloitte – 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey, found that:
The itch to quickly check that one notification on the screen; to always keep the notification badge zero; or the FOMO syndrome (Fear of Missing Out something important) keeps us going back to our phone, every few minutes.
Over past few years, I have been on a strong dose of these vitamins. I checked my phone compulsively. During meetings. While driving. Helping my little one with her school work. In the kitchen. With friends at a restaurant. It was a compulsive disorder to carry my phone wherever I would go. Mornings would customarily begin with daily dose of scrolling through the social media feed – posting, tweeting, sharing and the day would also end in a similar fashion with phone by my side in the bed. A vacation would begin even before actually beginning (a check-in post at the Airport!). Dinner time would be less of a real meal, but a “reel-meal” to check an enticing update.
At times when I woke up at midnight, I would reach out for my phone and scroll through my office mailbox and BOOM! – my mind is in an autopilot mode to process the fodder that it has just been fed with – ongoing projects, meetings for next day, deadlines and the list goes on… To make it worse, at times emails have been REPLIED to at 2 AM!
Never realized that my need for being connected gradually turned me into someone who was conn-addicted.
I didn’t realize this till the time I was at the other end. In a couple of instances, both at work and home, I sensed that the person whom I was in conversation with was only listening to me partially. He was more interested in his phone and occasionally nodding to make his presence felt, which in physical terms he was, but mentally not. This was not just disturbing but demeaning too.
It triggered some self-introspection. I decided to wean myself away from my smartphone. To begin with, I tried a couple of apps including Forest and BreakFree – both aimed at controlling the time spent on phones, helping one stay focused. They did help but the addicted mind soon overpowered these tiny minions. So I needed something more powerful to contain this. As a big step (for someone like me who was so HOOKED), on my smartphone, I deleted a few apps which were most visited by me. So next time when I truly needed some information, I had to go back to the desktop version to address my need, a small step towards treating vitamins as painkillers.
And the results are visible just in a few months. While the time spent at one go on these platforms has increased, frequency has decreased significantly. I am more focused on the tasks that I am performing, improving my output and efficiency. Now I am not distracted unless I choose to be. My time with my hubby and my six-year-old is absolutely about our time now. Our collective ‘family- screen-time’ has decreased, providing us with quality time to do other better things in life. And not to be missed, my driving is safer now…no texting while driving.
I am productive and connected – both at the same time.
In my view, a conscious choice needs to be made – the choice between vitamins or painkillers, and it’s surely in our hands.
Image source: pixabay
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Aanchal Makkar is a senior research analyst covering energy sector at Ernst & Young, a strong
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