Phones & wellbeing, “persuasive tech” & neuroscientists turned programmers all mean we have to up our awareness game or risk getting sucked in more & more.

I took a social media break this summer from mid-July to early September. 

It taught me stuff…one of which was that my phone needed a sleeping bag.

I’ve had this quiet yet relentless voice whispering to me about being more aware of the time and energy spent on my phone.  I know I’m not alone in this, this is a hot topic – quite rightly.  AND I have a daughter, soon to be a teenager.  We have a lot of conversations about phones, social media etc. and I have imposed a number of family-wide little experiments to help us build an awareness of our phone use as well as alternatives to grabbing it.

We’ve done the no-picking-up until 3 or 4pm on a Sunday.  We share our screen time analytics with each other.  We talk about it and are willing to challenge each other and call out “double screening” ~ when you’re sat in front of the TV and on your phone…not a good look.

We’ve also been talking about how our phone affects our feelings, emotions & behaviour.
BIG topic there…here are the high-lights of what we discovered:

It amplifies.

So if you feel sad, phone use makes you sadder.  If you feel happy, you squeal with delight at the internet cats.  If you are tense, it makes you tenser.  Amplification.

It distracts and then it sucks time.

So if you feel you need for a break from something, to tune out a bit or if you’re bored ~ the phone is ever so happy to provide all manner of distractions.  Then, you get those little dopamine hits and an hour has passed…eek.

We have made lists of things to do instead of picking up our phone, if we are bored, emotional, need support or even a recipe ~ there are other, better ways to address these feelings & desires that don’t involve a phone.  For instance, cracking open a recipe book, watering the plants, playing with the dog, moving our body somehow, putting on music…

Because once you are on it, it gets harder to get off of it…

Enter “persuasive tech”.

“Persuasive tech” is just some of the lingo developers use.  They are studying our brain in order to create addictive patterns.  This is FOR REAL. “keep engaged”, “surprise and hook each user”.  This is the language, this is the intention and they are using brain chemistry and psychology to hack into our time.

“thoughts and feelings are one the table as things that can be controlled and designed.”

That’s a quote from Ramsay Brown, founder of Dopamine Labs, neuroscientist turned programmer who consults companies on user engagement.

It’s essential to understand this if we are to intelligently engage with technology in our lives.

Not that Apps and developers are evil, but that we are living in an attention economy and your time is the currency.

There’s a growing field of tech design ethics & ethicists like Tristan Harris who was a Google designer and now, according to The Atlantic magazine, “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience.”  He speaks of “brain hacking” as well as “cognitive liberty” and liberty to build the kind of mind one wants to live in.  {love that.}

So if you get sucked in, it doesn’t mean you suck, it’s suck by design.

Meanwhile…as I’m shopping for a new phone case…

the backdrop to my life is settling in to a new home that just underwent a totally insane breathless renovation {working on a piece about the really, real cost of my renovation ~ spoiler, it’s not just money}.  Anyway, I’m pooped, we have had six homes in the last eight years owing to my husbands work, life has been like living in a blender and I am ready to lay roots and more meaningfully engage with my work.

It’s like a start-up after seven exhausting {but also deeply rewarding} years of start-up.

I need to focus.

I want to focus as I know the freedom clever discipline brings.

I need to not compare myself to others and get distracted by stories, cats, offers, free trainings, politics, cartoons of Trump & BoJo and so on.

I need to be present.

With myself, my beautiful new home, my adorable family.  With the apples on the apple tree, with the whispers of nature, with what I am cooking, with petting my dog.  I need to be present to my emotions, to my body, to the inspiration that flares up.  All the good stuff that’s RIGHT HERE, in 3D.

I need to pick up my phone less and have a very clear idea of why I am picking it up in the first place.

I need barriers to entry.

Enter the sleeping bag.

Not just a case, but a very specific case.  A black sleeping bag, almost a casket…no fussing with the size and shape of the camera holes {thank you Apple for more built in obsolescence, change the camera & we need new cases}.

No fuss.  Just a really, really satisfying action of sliding my phone back into it’s bag.  {That might have something to do with it being a lovely Mulberry case…so tactile.}

And the longer than usual moment of getting it out of the sleeping bag ~ just enough to create a different type of ritual, a moment, a slight space to remember what I want & what I don’t want from my phone use.

And it’s working.

It’s a physical reminder of my intention to not be distracted by tech, but to be present and appreciate what’s right here in the moment.

To be super intentional & clear when I am using my phone so I know when I’m done and get to put it back in it’s sleeping bag.

Because frankly the internet is super cool and there are writers and podcasts I absolutely love and get a lot out of & a couple minutes seeing faces I love or inspiring people on social is nice ~ but within my boundaries.

///sidenote////
I use Insta & FB for work and when you work for yourself you can fall into a rut of over-seeking evidence that you are “seen” –  this is a big topic within this wider topic I am discussing here, but key to recognise how these platforms can really prey on the frets of women with businesses…so ~ never EVER jump on when you think you aren’t “doing enough” or “achieving enough” or “anything enough” ~ that shit WILL amplify and amplify like a mo-fo!  Go there if you know you can get support in a specific space, but don’t scroll!

To sum up…

Staying sane and happy with this kind of technology is demanding us to up-level our awareness and clarity of intentions.

And actually, if we do that, it’s no bad thing – for sure.

 

When you are on your phone ~just know where you are are, why you are there, how you go there.  Look at your screen time, remember your brain might be responding to dopamine hits and some developer had exactly this in mind.  Be clear and honest with yourself about what it is you want to get out of the time spent on your phone.  Consider the alternatives.

And maybe a phone sleeping bag would help you too?

I think my phone likes it.

Let me know what you think in the comments.
What have you tried and noticed with regards to keeping your phone use within the bounds of wellbeing.
What does wellbeing with phones mean and look like to you?
Any ideas for families?
I would love to hear!

Love,
M x

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