More than two and a half billion people in the world today use smartphones and most of them can’t even think of spending time without this device. There is always an app coming out that increases the speed of such addiction. For such companies, the addiction brings huge profits.
However, as much as users are responsible for this, smartphone devices are more responsible. Following the general psychology, these devices are designed in such a way that we are forced to fall into its trap. However, anyone who understands this trick will find a way out of it.
‘Attention’ acts as a finite resource at a given time. Much like the amount of money you use each month. You cannot use this amount of attention at any one time. Nowadays, most of our attention is being spent on unnecessary apps and content.
The world we live in now is a world of constant distractions. According to some studies, on an average, more than 63 notifications come to our phone every day. This number is 90 in the email inbox. On average we change jobs every three minutes.
When we are distracted by something, the two regions of our brain are at war with each other. These two regions are the parietal cortex and the frontal cortex. The parietal cortex responds to the type of psychosis. On the other hand, the frontal cortex helps in intellectual or work that requires attention. Therefore, we lose focus when trying to dominate the parietal cortex in the middle of any work of the frontal cortex. On the other hand, if the frontal cortex controls the parietal cortex, we can focus.
Our brain decides what is important and what is not. This decision requires attention. If you want to clear the email box, there are many small decisions to make. You have to think about which email to keep, which to delete. In general, it is not a heavy intellectual task. But after seeing so many emails like this, you can’t afford to make any other important decisions.
In August 2016, the UK’s telecom regulator Ofcom reported that people checked their smartphones every twelve minutes on average. 61 percent never turn off their phones. And 40 percent of people pick up a smartphone within five minutes of waking up.
Linda Stone, a former consultant at Apple and Microsoft, coined the term ‘Continuous Partial Attention’. Anytime, anywhere we always focus part of our attention on smartphones. This constant alertness makes it difficult for us to focus on anything else. We have become accustomed to it. But the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are creating a ‘hyper-alert’ state of mind, which is always looking for stimuli. Thus a terrible addiction has been created. The question is, is it possible to get out of this addiction by using a smartphone at the same time?
Tristan Harris worked as a design atheist for Google. Now he runs a non-profit organization called Time Well Spent, whose main job is to inform how technology companies can distract us and make a profit from it. According to him, we are living inside two billion Truman shows. In The Truman Show (1997), the protagonist wakes up and sees that everything is arranged just for him, just like him. The same is true of smartphones, but we don’t understand them easily. All the apps here are arranged just like its user, a synergy between them works, so that the user can be attracted.
Tristan Harris has come up with three easy ways to get rid of this strong attraction of smartphones. The very first step is to turn off all notifications. If a real person wants to contact you, the only thing they can do is show up in the notification panel. Usually when someone wants to communicate, they do so through calls and text messages. There are many apps that create an illusion of such social interaction. For example, if Facebook sends a notification that a friend is interested in going to an event, then they are trying to play the role of a puppet master. In order to build social relationships, they increase the desire to use your app more and more.
Notifications have not always worked that way. When BlackBerry introduced the first push notification feature for email in 2003, it emerged as a way to reduce phone usage. In today’s world, notifications are available from any app. So, every time you look at the phone, you can see that a lot of notifications have come and made the panel heavier. Each of these notifications has the potential to create a different feeling.
The biggest trick here is, these notifications are pretty random. Which will make you feel better. Some will be upset again, for example: many people are jealous when they see someone living a good life through social media. If most of these notifications felt good or mostly bad, the illusion of this addiction would be cut off. Let me explain.
Slot machines are very popular in America. It even earns more than the combined profits of the baseball, movie and theme park industries. This is because it creates addictions 3-4 times faster than any other gamble. Pulling the lever of the slot machine gives the same result at once. It creates a desire in people that the next result will work for them. It is this desire that triggers addiction. Because of their ability to empty people’s pockets of slot machines, such as thieves, they are often referred to as ‘one-arm bandits’.
Many apps have added the ‘pull to refresh’ feature, mimicking the way this lever is pulled on slot machines. These apps are capable of constantly updating their feeds. By doing this ‘pool’, the feed is also updated. Here, like a slot machine, a user’s desire is created that in the next update he will see something good, desirable. And ‘pooling’ creates an illusion of control, which is quite addictive. This feature has been used in social media giants like Facebook, Twitter.
In one study, a group of people were asked to check their emails whenever they wanted. Another group got to see their emails at regular intervals, in batch form. It was found that those who divided their emails into three to five batches faced relatively less stress. Their ability to control their attention was also seen more.
Imagine, your attention is a calm lake, where uninterrupted reflection falls. Let’s think of this reflection as the ability to hold attention. Every notification is like a raindrop on this lake. As a result, the reflection of the lake is shaken, the calm feeling is disturbed. The kind of notifications we are constantly confronted with can be called a storm in the likeness of this lake. Every time our attention is diverted, we have to work hard to get that attention back. As a result, we become more and more exhausted at the end of the day.
In 2005, Dr. A study by Glenn Wilson found that those who were distracted by email and phone calls dropped their IQ scores by ten points. This effect is almost double that of marijuana use. Half of the people who took part in the study said they sat down to reply as soon as they received an email. 21 percent admitted that they do this even in important meetings. This type of psychosis has the effect of not being able to sleep at night.
Tristan Harris’ second suggestion is to make the phone screen black and white or ‘grayscale’. The human eye is more sensitive to warm colors. These colors are the easiest way to attract the user to the screen. As seen in itracking experiments, the bright red color is able to create the most attraction. Because of this, most apps use bright and warm colors when redesigning their icons. Notification bubbles are red for the same reason.
The easiest way to prevent this trick is to use black and white. This option can be found in the accessibility settings of modern phones. If all the apps look black and white, the brain will not be extra attracted to any app. This is the biggest reason behind the dominance of bright colors in slot machines.
Tristan Harris’ latest advice is to keep only the daily necessary apps on the home screen. That is, after unlocking the phone, only the apps that are necessary in your life, you can see in front of your eyes. Some of these apps are Uber, Maps, Calendar. These apps are not capable of dragging the user down to the ‘bottomless vertex of staff’.
Let’s explain ‘Bottomless Vortex of Staff’. Simply put, it refers to apps that you can constantly scroll through. There is no end to this scroll. Naturally, apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram can come to your mind. On the other hand, let’s think about the Google search page. There, you need to click to see the new content.
Such ‘infinite scroll’ automatically causes new content to appear at the bottom of the page. There is no end to the built-in of these pages. YouTube video auto play or messenger story auto play works the same way. This interface gives the user an experience of viewing unrestricted content. At the same time, it creates a feeling that the user has control in his hands. But, this automation is hard enough to turn off. Because, we are trapped in a mental trap.
A 2005 study found that people who ate soup from a bowl that was automatically full ate 73 percent more soup than others. But their satisfaction level was lower than others. So, it is better to have no constraint in sight. Because, it gives a better idea of when the feeling of self-satisfaction should stop than it is. Since many mainstream apps do not offer this ‘end point’ concept, without putting them on the homescreen, the risk of distraction is reduced.
A study was done on university students. They were asked to find a specific building. A team did this with the help of smartphones. Another group did it without a smartphone. Those who used smartphones arrived naturally early. But at the same time, they felt less connected to the community. So, for speed, we should think about what we have to pay to use these devices. Social bonds are very important to keep the society together. But it is slowly disappearing from us.
We are constantly using smartphones a lot. Many people underestimate the value of this unnecessary use. Hopefully, the idea of a different type of interface is being discussed, where apps will communicate more transparently with the user, giving an idea of how much time an action will take as a result of an action. So, technology may not always be the same.
Which item really deserves your attention? According to Tristan Harris, this is a profound philosophical question. What would be the answer for you? This is a very difficult question. But most of us never think about it. So, from the moment we read this article, we should all think about the answer to this question.