Following Google's lead, Apple has released digital wellbeing tools to help people reduce screentime. Given the consumer's relentless use of mobile, will it work?
Google’s recent annual developer’s conference, CEO, Sundar Pichai revealed that more than 70% of consumers want help with striking a balance in their digital lives.
When you think about it, that’s not massively surprising. How many of us have found ourselves responding to texts during a family dinner?
Seen the kids competing with smartphones for our attention? Or promised ourselves a digital detox…one day?
These kinds of scenarios are making us question the amount of time we spend on devices. But it’s not just personal experience that’s prompting us to consider our digital wellbeing.
The press has commented a lot lately on the effects of screen time. And who could forget Netflix’s CEO claiming that their biggest competitors were Facebook, YouTube and sleep!
Time to think and dream
There’s also a growing body of research talking about technology and the toll it’s taking on our lives.
In her recent study Alone Together, MIT professor, Sherry Turkle writes: “we fill our days with ongoing connection, denying ourselves time to think and dream.”
While in her TED talk, Turkle gives evidence of people avoiding conversations because they happen in real time and are difficult to control.
We are so used to editing, deleting and retouching, that conversations become difficult. “Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology,” she says.
When you couple these reports with our everyday experience of ongoing notifications and slumber-shattering pings at 3am, it’s no surprise that three quarters of us are looking for alternatives.
“We feel a deep responsibility to get this right” – Sundar Pichai
In light of this, there’s a lot to be done on the digital wellbeing front. And the tech giants are now starting to understand their responsibilities.
This week, a month after Pichai revealed Google’s wellbeing tools, Apple followed suit.
Their new digital health suite includes a range of ways to help us control our use of technology. There’s time and location-based Do Not Disturb modes and a wider range of notification management tools to give us more control.
On top of this, the new Screen Time app tells you things like how long you use which app, how often you pick up your phone and how regularly apps are beeping for your attention.
There’s also the opportunity to set limits on the time you spend in certain apps. When you hit your quota, you’re simply locked out and told to run along.
But will they work?
There’s no denying that these new additions are a positive thing for many of us. Whether they work or not, is another question entirely.
For years, technology companies have invested massive amounts of time in creating hugely alluring tools that hijack our attention. The creation of new tools – which do completely the opposite – mean we’re all in unchartered territory here.
Will Apple and Google’s wellbeing suites be enough to help us reduce our screen time? Will we be more likely to ignore our phones at the dinner table? Will we find extra time to think and dream?
Only time will tell. But for now, it’s a step – albeit a small one – in the right direction.