More and more these days, people are having conversations about what we've lost in our hyper-connected world, and the harm that is being done at the very least through wasted time when so many of us have our faces in our phones so much of the time.
On 60 Minutes last night, Anderson Cooper delved into the ethically suspect work of engineers working to design apps and cellphones that make their users want to use them more something experts argue is damaging, especially, to teenagers and children. Former Google product manager Tristan Harris has been an outspoken critic of the industry he was formerly a part of, and he is one of the people Cooper spoke to in the piece.
Harris founded an organization called Time Well Spent that seeks to push designers and engineers to think more ethically on this topic, and to help users of technology "unhijack" their own minds through some simple steps in their cellphone use (see video below).
Harris has for a couple of years now been speaking out on the "war for attention" that's going on for our eyeballs, and the price we pay, with our time and attention, for use of free apps and sites like Facebook. He did this piece with the tech-centric podcast Note To Self in 2015, and he likens the work of tech companies to a "race to the bottom of the brain stem," playing on our anxieties to get us to give over more of our attention every day.
"And it’s not because anyone is evil or has bad intentions," he tells Cooper. "It’s because the game is getting attention at all costs."
Harris has pointed to the way Snapchat engages teenagers in a whole new way, playing on their particular social anxieties and putting them through these self-imposed gauntlets of engagement with things like Snapstreaks, in which pressure mounts to keep streaks of Snaps going between friends almost as proof of your ongoing friendship. (For the uninitiated, a Snapstreak is a streak of back-and-forth Snapchat messages, one ever 24 hours at least for three days or more.)
As Ramsay Brown, the founder of Dopamine Labs puts it to 60 Minutes, "You don’t pay for Facebook. Advertisers pay for Facebook. You get to use it for free because your eyeballs are what’s being sold there... You’re not the customer. You don’t sign a check to Facebook. But Coca-Cola does."
Brown has also developed an app, which was rejected by the Apple App Store, called Space which provides a 12-second "moment of Zen" before launching any social media app.
Below, check out Harris's recommendations for rejiggering your homescreen and changing your cellphone-addict habits, so you don't waste so much of your life.
Previously: UGH: The Average Person Is Going To Spend Five Years Of Their Life On Social Media