At Well+Good, the wonderful Liza Kindred describes how to make personal technology serve you, instead of the reverse. It all starts with realizing that your inability to put down your phone isn’t a personal failing, it’s something that’s been done to you:
“The biggest problem with how people engage with technology is technology, not the people,” she says. “Our devices and favorite apps are all designed to keep us coming back for more. That being said, there are many ways for us to intervene in our own relationships with tech, so that we can live this aspect of our lives in a way we can be proud of.”
Liza offers several pointers for putting personal technology in its place. My personal favorite:
Her biggest recommendation is turning off all notifications not sent by a human. See ya, breaking news, Insta likes, and emails. “Your time is more valuable than that,” Kindred says.
Alas, these strategies are akin to learning self-defense skills during a crime wave. They’re helpful (critical, even), but the core problem remains. In this case, the “crime wave” is the cynical, engagement-hungry strategies that too many companies employ to keep people clicking and tapping. And clicking and tapping. And clicking and tapping.
Liza’s on the case there, too. Her company Mindful Technology helps organizations craft products and business strategies that are kind and respectful while still serving the bottom line. I’ve participated in her Mindful Technology workshops, and they’re mind opening. Liza demonstrates that design patterns and business models that you might take for granted as a best practice do more damage than you realize. She has a collection of these anti-patterns, and product designers should take note.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to continue to sharpen those self-defense skills.