Why is it so difficult to put down your Sleek Smartphone?

Have you ever wondered why is it so difficult to stop procrastinating and to put the phone down to resume the task at hand? Well, so far you must have blamed your mind for getting easily getting distracted and your lack of ability to exercise self-control. Although these accusations on the Human mind are not all wrong, it’s not entirely our fault.

Though many of us do not realize this immediately but the most popular apps we use today are designed to be engaging and sometimes addictive. Let’s take the Facebook “likes” for an example, it’s a feature that was smartly introduced about 10 years ago with the aim for users to be able to express their liking for a specific content. It has not only achieved its original purpose but has also become the “bright dings of Pseudo pleasure” as called by its creator, Justin Rosenstein. The tiny surge of dopamine it brings into our brains not only increases the user’s activity on the app but subsequent likes help facebook harvest information about the user’s preferences and hence, loading of more suggestions. A vicious cycle, you may say.

Another fact that attributes to the ability of the screens to entice us is, a human eye is most responsive to warm and bright colours. No wonder the badges for all the app notifications are red!

So as it has already been said by several tech experts, “Its no accident that you are so addicted to your phone, they were designed to be that way.”

“The triumph of all prominent mobile technologies, social networking apps and games is rooted in the concept of “Attention Economy”, wherein human attention is considered a scarce commodity and various principles are used to successfully gain, or rather grab human attention, some of which are:-

Immediacy: Priority access to the content and its immediate delivery.

Personalization: “tailor-made just for you”.

Accessibility: Wherever, whenever.

So you see, a bunch of principles have been identified and lay out the ground rules for designing the user-interface.

Technology being addictive is contributing to something called as  “continuous partial attention“, limiting one’s ability to focus and possibly leading to the reduction in IQ. Interestingly, a mere presence of the device even when it’s, turned off can affect cognition. A Recent study

It’s a fact that people of all age groups are under the influence of technological advances which were not originally created with the intention of inducing harmful consequences, but to enhance connectivity and productivity. But the dependence on the virtual life is real and it is the possible source of our day to day emotional and cognitive crisis. Quite ironically, in the light of this downside, the inventors, creators and investors of these Business Giants can be seen keeping a safe distance from the enticing web themselves. On the release of the first Ipad, Steve Jobs revealed that his children had not used it and that they limit the amount of technology their kids use at home. Similarly, many parents including Bill Gates who live and work with technology as a big part of their lives have been seen limiting their own family’s usage of gadgets, apps and games. Cleary, they do it because they know that sometimes the bad outweighs the good especially in the case of technology.

Tristan Harris, a former Google employee, and now a critic of the tech industry ascertained how the design of the apps violated the attention capacity of an individual and gained a role of a design ethicist at Google. His new job allowed him to think, read and understand about the impacts of virtual design on the human lives.

He explored how LinkedIn exploits a need for social reciprocity to widen its network, how YouTube and Netflix autoplay videos and next episodes, depriving users of a choice about whether or not they want to keep watching; how Snapchat created its addictive Snapstreaks feature, encouraging near-constant communication between its mostly teenage users.” (The Guardian)

It is easy to slip into this “bottomless vortex of stuff” where there seems to be no visual stopping cues and the feed goes on and on. But once we know the tactics that have been used to stall us, we hold the knowledge and the choice to walk away knowing it is a mental deception. The best thing I guess would be keeping the phone out of sight. Gradually, you will be able to feel the dependence fading and your mind coming alive as it always used to be. (I think many of you may be able to relate on this with me)

So don’t be too hard on yourself the next time. But be wise to stop, knowing that you’re being tricked.