I'll shortly get to the surprising new features for the i-Phone, embedded in the fall's upcoming iOS 12 update, but first, some important background.
Even though it hasn't officially been called an addiction yet, you likely have one when it comes to the use of your mobile device and the resultant drain on your presence in the moment, unfortunately. Research shows the average person now spends more than four hours engaging with a mobile phone and tablet screens a day--on average over 25 percent of their waking hours.
Hey, I'm not casting stones, I'm right there with you. Device use is a choice, one which I need to get better at too.
But let me employ some victim mentality for us all by reminding you that The Great Tech companies planned it this way. Ex-Facebook VP of User Growth, Chamath Palihapitiya told a Stanford University crowd that "the short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created pose a threat to society as a whole." In an interview with Axiox, Facebook's first president, Sean Parker, described the key to the company's growth as constantly considering the question, "How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?"
This doesn't make Facebook evil by any means, just good at what they do.
That's why it was so surprising when Apple recently announced new features for iOS 12 to help reduce screen time and limit interruptions.
Parental controls aren't new. But controls for the parents themselves (and all adults) are.
The features include an enhanced Do Not Disturb Bedtime mode that dims lights and turns off notifications. The mode can be applied to any time that's desired to be distraction free like meetings or dinners. Apple has also enrolled Siri to help give smart suggestions based on phone use for how to better manage how notifications are delivered.
Perhaps the most important feature is the addition of Screen Time, which Apple describes as follows: "Empowering customers with insight into how they are spending time with apps and websites, Screen Time creates detailed daily and weekly Activity Reports that show the total time a person spends in each app they use, their usage across categories of apps, how many notifications they receive and how often they pick up their iPhone or iPad."
Screen Time also allows you to set limits for how long you can be in an app, for example, complete with "Time's almost up" notifications.
The bottom line is that Apple's latest present to us is the gift of presence. Facebook is certainly working on similar improvements and Google has started a Digital Wellbeing initiative which cites the perfect mantra:
"Great technology should improve life, not distract from it."
So back to that point on addiction. Are we or aren't we?
A few observations. When I'm on a plane now, I see that as soon as the wheels touch down at least half the plane has sprung their devices into action as if they had to give a breaking news report on a deadline.
My family and I have gone to the theater, sat in the upper balcony, and during intermission looked down over the shoulders of hundreds to see a cacophony of brightly lit screens. Who has time for conversation?
I lost count of the times I was in meetings with half the attendees attending to their phones. Millennials have created a term for when their boss snubs them during a one on one meeting by multi-tasking with their smartphones while "listening". The term is called "phubbing" and yes, it's a thing.
So if many of us aren't addicted we're at least overly adoring of the device.
The Center For Humane Technology offers practical tips for how to control your devices versus letting them control you. In the end, use of all of these controls will require self-control--we'll have to enable them.
Think about it this way. Starting this fall, turning on a few features will help you better tune into that great app called Life.
Sign me up.