[COMMENT] It seems it’s time for tech to step in to solve the problem it created – online/real-life imbalance.
Over the years, we’ve seen incredible tech developments all geared toward better use of time: Improved productivity, the immediacy of connection, automation, a platform to empower, enlighten and entertain…
There’s no doubt technology has made life a lot easier but what has it stolen to achieve this?
Technology has led to false beliefs which end up driving and manipulating our behaviour. We live in a world where the big tech companies have the ability to schedule thoughts in your mind. You thought you were rushing to social media to accept that friend request to avoid seeming rude but really that friend was likely responding to an algorithm that suggested you as a connection.
Another commonly ploy used is the classic ‘You’ve been tagged in a photo’ notification which hooks us immediately because what if it’s a bad photo, right? How many other tech moments are manipulated like this? It’s become something of a social obligation.
All or nothing relationship
We’ve been led into an all or nothing relationship with technology as a result of big tech company’s vying for our attention. The tech we’re faced with throughout our day is designed to draw us in to consume more content and spend more time and data. Swipe right for love, left for no and drive here to get home faster.
These overly simplistic choices lead us to believe the power is in our hands, but it’s all a deception to keep us from considering what really matters to us and what would help us live each moment to the max.
With the big players like Google, Amazon, and Facebook etc. driving the agenda to innovate more and more tech, keeping up to speed is a task near impossible. Especially considering that they’re all fighting for the same share of our attention. In an article on the topic, Jemima Kiss wrote that technological advances have put the world at our fingertips but asked the question: “Is being connected all of the time really good for us?” She went on to say that turning off technology is about mental wellbeing. This was written in 2015 and it’s frightening to consider how much has changed since then.
Restoration of choice
What we need is the restoration of choice. With tech designed for a more profound human goal we create a world that helps you spend your time well. So much of the recent content we’re seeing from online writers and thinkers is shaped around the need for ‘tech breaks’ and the increasing benefits of such.
Apps and products are being developed to help us maintain the balance between connectedness and calm, to bring awareness to our feelings and our surroundings and some to just help us focus, away from the distractions that technology brings. These apps log our screen time and even allow us to set time limits to certain apps.
Some of the other products include the IRL (in real life) glasses and Traveler (distraction free writing). Considering the amount of time we spend looking at screens every day it’s no surprise that there’s a need for these. IRL screen blocking glasses put you in control to decide when and how you engage with screens allowing for uninterrupted experiences and genuine human connections.
The second product, Traveler, is a typewriter inspired set-up with a keyboard and simple screen boasting a battery life of up to 30 hours for anyone needing to complete a written piece. These wonderful tech products have stepped in to bring us back to the present, to help us focus and be more present in life’s special moments.
Reminder that we’re human
These tangible developments are fascinating but maybe an alternative is much simpler. Using the reams and reams of data that the Google’s of the world have collected we could tailor the experience to empower the users instead of stealing their time. The simple ‘Focus Mode’, for example, allows users to mark themselves as ‘focused’ to allow only for conscious and urgent interruptions.
Studies have been done to prove that, once you’re distracted, it takes around 23 minutes to refocus on the task at hand. Would you reply to that comment if you knew the time cost? We need to question what we would consider time well spent and how much our phones can help us reach our personal goals.
So this is your reminder that we’re human and the pressure for instant success and perfect choices is one we can choose to mute. Let’s be content and intentional in the present to focus on the things we care most about.
So would you say that technology has aided us to a more productive and empowered society or has it handicapped our attention and stolen our freedom of choice?
Fagan Abraham is a passionate professional who services Standard Bank as a media strategist at OMD. She is a driven and curious individual, who is forward thinking and fascinated by the world of creativity in the media and advertising space. She has a passion for the upliftment and development of smart young people in the industry and enjoys volunteering her time to share her love of the fun, frenetic and fulfilling media industry.