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ByePhone

I use my phone too much. I look at it too often. I am amazed at what it does and I’m grateful for a lot of things it allows me to do. However, I find myself opening, refreshing, closing, opening, refreshing and closing it a lot. There are never-ending stories to check, memes to lol at and tags to review.

And the worrying thing is that it’s getting worse.

A few weeks ago in an attempt to grab even more of my attention, Facebook tried to encourage me to message my friend for a third day in a row “to keep my streak going”.

How about I message them the next time I need to speak to them?

How about I message them the next time I need to speak to them?

These kinds of attention-grabbing-features are appearing because:

  1. Our attention = Ca$h: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Snapchat etc. make their money from showing you ads. The more you look at their apps, the more money they can make. They want you to open their apps as often as possible so they are designing new ways (like the Facebook example above) to keep you coming back.
  2. Its technically possible: Apple, Google and other manufacturers have built phones (hardware) and operating systems (software) that allow app developers to push information to you, to interrupt you, know your location and know your activity.

The advertising-based business models of your favorite apps combined with your smartphone means an all-out war to steal your time and attention.

Taking a break

It feels like this is going to get worse before it gets better. A lot of apps are addicted to the advertising dollar and that won’t be changing in the short term.

The Facebook example above prompted a discussion with my friend Tim and together we’ve decided to take a break from our smartphones. It’s an experiment, partly for fun, partly a protest, and partly a serious inquiry into our own relationships with focus, productivity, mental health and the devices we use each day. It’s an opportunity for reflection and consideration.

Starting next Monday 22nd January, we’re going to spend a week (maybe longer) without our feature-full $1000 smartphones and switch back to the featureless phones we grew up with.

I shared this idea along with a list of things I think I’m going to miss on Twitter a month ago. Since then a few people have decided to join us as we say goodbye to our smartphones. You’re welcome to do the same.

If you’d like to come along for the ride, grab yourself an old phone and sim-card, give your new number to your most important friend and family and put your smartphone in your draw. We’ll be sharing our experiences (from our computers) with the hashtag #byephone.

For some reason, I’m kind of nervous about not having access to music, maps, weather and on-demand cars. But I also know that is stupid and that feeling nervous about losing that stuff is probably a sign that something needs to change.

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