Every year millions of people make the attempt to spend less time on their electronic devices and in front of screens so, why do so many of us fail?
Well if you are like most of us, you have never been able to reduce the amount of time that you spend in front of a screen. I blame part of it on the fact that my job is to be a professional googler, the other reason is, like the large majority of our readers, I am addicted to it.
I do not like to use the word addicted, but in this case I feel that is it the word that best describes the behaviour. And while we try to take control of our tech habits, technology companies are fighting over who gets more of our screen time and user attention. But unlike us, they have highly effective systems in place to achieve their goal.
Technology companies consciously and unconsciously exploit our behaviours and weaknesses in order to get us to spend more time using their products and services. In doing so, they have more opportunities to sell their products or those of other companies to you.
How do they achieve this? Well it is through various calculated design decisions which control the menu of options we as users can select. There have been many examples by social medial platforms both big and small that revealed examples of manipulation tactics used by the designers. One such example was with Facebook’s notification icon, you know the one that lets you, the user, know of any “likes,” friend requests and any other activity on your account. Did you know that it is was originally meant to be blue, the signature color of Facebook, but no one used it, so the company quickly changed it to red, a known trigger color, and the company immediately saw a spike in engagement. So why did this spike engagement? Well users have the need to make the red notification badge go away and feel driven to open or like even the selection to make it go away even if they’re not interested in the content.
So, what can we as users do about it? Well in my opinion we need to save ourselves, yes just as big tech has designed their apps around grabbing as much of our attention as possible they can also design apps around truly serving the user’s needs and helping us better utilize our screen time. However, I personally think it is a decision that we have to make and manage on our own.
Do I see users and big tech companies finally starting to figure out that they need to learn how to use technology responsibly? Yes, plus the acknowledgement of an issue is at least a start towards a possible solution.
Google, Apple, Facebook and YouTube have all recently announced new features to help users curb their phone and app addictions by taking a more ethical approach to the user experience, but we can’t rely solely on technology to bring us back to ourselves.
Like I had said before, users in the end will have to make the final choice to limit usage and after all even media is created to capture your attention or we would not simply write this article, but it is your choice whether you read it and we are happy you did.
By Calli Gregg