Google Productivity Pad: Screen Test: Enhance or Detract

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Screen Test: Enhance or Detract

For a while now I have been concerned about screens. I have two main concerns:

  1. the amount of time I spend in front of a screen
  2. life being filtered through a screen
Now I am clearly not anti technology by any means, I write a technology blog, I work in the social media industry, I am getting my masters degree in instructional technology, and I will be teaching a class this fall on using technology in the classroom. In fact I am starkly opposed to those who talk about technology as thought in cannot produce anything more than superficial stimulus with no meaningful experiences.

But I am concerned because the area is still new and we don't know much about its effects.
I admit that I don't want to live in a Wall-e like world where all interactions take place through a screen. 

I think in the early 2000's we teetered near this fate as more work became computer centric and tied people to desktops and laptops. I believe we were pulled back from this by the mobile revolution that began to take place after the iPhone and then the iPad were released. People are coming to realize that while most jobs now have a computer or internet component to them (for many communication), many do not require you to constantly be in front of a traditional computer because they can be done from anywhere on a mobile device.

I consider this a good thing, because I believe that the less obtrusive technology can be while still bringing enhancements to our lives, the better.

What concerns me now is that this new ecosystem of mobile computing has brought with it its own challenges. The accessibility of the screens when we are out of the house has made us subject to constant drive for more.

More what?

More anything: information, entertainment, even work. Heaven forbid we go a moment without consuming something.

Have to wait for someone to use the restroom? Pull out your phone.
Waiting to order food in a restaurant? Pull out your phone.
Lull in the conversation? Pull out your phone.

And then the all important: notification vibrate? Pull out your phone.

And I will have you know that I fully include myself in this. And even having consciously acknowledged it, it is still hard to break. So I came up with a test.

The Test
Before you start using a screen THINK:
"Will using this screen enhance or detract from the situation that I intend to be in right now?"

Don't use a screen mindlessly just because it is there. The key is to be intentional about it. You are in charge. M. Russell Ballard recently taught:

"Digital technologies should be our servants and not our masters"
You, and I, may have mindlessly created habits that allow our screens to control what we do. But we can change if we take control by using this simple test.

I don't think it is going to be easy, it is easy to condition yourself into bad habits, but hard to build good ones. One thing I am experimenting with that seems to be helping is using my Pebble to receive notifications on my wrist. This has reduced the number of times my phone comes out of my pocket because I don't have to look at it unless the notification really is important. You don't need to buy a smartwatch though, you can try putting your phone in Do Not Disturb mode or airplane mode to keep it from distracting you.

Some developers also concerned about this problem have developed an app called "Moment" for the purpose of tracking your phone usage. I have not tried it because it costs $5.00 and currently has poor performance reviews. But I like the idea and I hope they will improve it or others will follow the train of thought.

The key I think will be to take charge. Choose which situation YOU want to be in and then be there. Essentially I guess it is the same as the key has always been: Remember, to live better.

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