There is a lot of talk going on about evil apps stealing our time and attention. I also elaborated the addictive design of facebook in my last article here. I did this to expose certain things that are obvious to me as a designer, but might not be that obvious to others.
On the one hand, it is a very good development to have a discourse critically reflecting the role of technology today. On the other hand, I dare to question the perspective from which many people take part in that discourse.
Let’s take the movement Time Well Spent for example. They say:
We as individuals can try to use our devices more responsibly, but it’s our willpower against hundreds of engineers who are paid to keep us glued to the screen:
– YouTube autoplays more videos to keep us from leaving.
– Instagram shows new likes one at a time, to keep us checking for more.
– Facebook wants to show whatever keeps us scrolling.
– Snapchat turns conversations into streaks we don’t want to lose.
– Our media turns events into breaking news to keep us watching.
These are not neutral tools.
They are part of a system designed to keep us hooked.
Let’s have a closer look at this now. “We as individuals can try to use our devices more responsibly, but it’s our willpower against hundreds of engineers who are paid to keep us glued to the screen.”
As if someone is coming every day, putting your phone in your hand, gluing your fingers to the screen and preventing you from thinking on your own.
Yes, it is our willpower against hundreds of engineers. This is exactly what we need to understand in the first place.
In our world today, someone with an idea will always determine what someone without an idea is going to do. This is what business and technology developments are actually showing us.
Do you really think apps are stealing your time and attention? Think again. What about sitcoms or video games before apps were there?
You can't complain someone took the free space you left in your mind.
I mean, whose problem is it when you don’t understand some law of nature? Nature’s or yours? It’s about human nature driving technology, not about technology driving human nature.
People are building technological products and services on the basis of their values and beliefs. If they put profit first, people will be second. They will then build companies, where people are likely to go to work for the sole purpose of making money either.
The same principle applies to every individual. If you put your comfort first, you’ll stay in your comfort zone and you’ll do everything as you’ve always did. If that works for you, keep doing that. But then don’t say someone else is commanding your mind, while you were comfortably scrolling your news feed in a moment of boredom. You created that moment yourself.
If you want to play by your own rules, you’ll have to create them first. You need to get out of the victim mentality and hold yourself accountable for everything you do or don’t do.
As Farrah Gray has once said, build your own dreams or someone else will hire you to build theirs. I am using this cliché quote to point out the core problem that lies here.
Have you ever thought about the people who don’t get hooked on social media? This does not necessarily mean they don’t use social media at all. It doesn’t mean they have never used it or they quit either. What it can mean though, is that they don’t have a job they hate and they don’t feel the need to escape their lives. It can also mean they know what they are doing with every minute of their time and that that is subject to their vision.
The thing is, if you don’t have a vision, a mission or just something concrete you really want to achieve, you won’t have the drive to make any effort. And if you do have that, it will command your thoughts and actions. It will charge you with enthusiasm and fresh energy every day.
It’s not so hard to define your vision, really. You just need to state what is important to you and what your values are. You already know that. From there you can determine what kind of person you want to be, what kind of things you want to support and what you want in life. With time, the shape of this will get clearer and clearer and gradually evolve.
I can give you an even easier start. Make a list of all the things you don’t like in your life right now. Their opposites are what you want in life. Start working for that.
Knowing what you want in life will let you know not only what to do, but also what not to do.
If you want to be successful at anything, you will need to work hard for that. You will need to have a plan for what you want to achieve every day. You’ll need to remember that the more you work, the better you get and vice versa. You will then be aware of the fact, that all the time you are wasting, you are practically going in the opposite direction of what you want in life. Then, you are more likely to have fear of missing out on something really important to you and not on random facebook posts.
Even if there was some kind of a conspiracy of the big evil digital corporations, as Time Well Spent is presenting it, how do you want to overcome that? By demanding them to stop making money the way they do?
Again, think again. This is not the side of power. This is the side of a victim of power. The side of power is to take complete control over your own mind. Then, and only then, nobody else can control you.
Changing your thinking is not an option. It’s an obligation.