Posted by Dan at 10st October 2012

Turning Off. A New Turn-On.

Social Needia is a disease continuing to spread at work and at home. It’s been around a while, quietly noticed but largely ignored, unmoved by race, gender or age. It’s most prevalent when we are in social groups and it spreads virally.

We are the walking dead, living the addicts curse of the hyperconnected via our smartphones. Whether on a date, grabbing coffee with mates, or in business meetings… we’re zoned out of the conversation in the room to have another outside of it?!

fMRI brain scans show we’re not addicted to our phones, we’re actually in LOVE with them. Thank goodness mine is splash proof.

Hyperconnectivity is relatively old news, well documented and is not just mobile phone based. There are some surprising pros and cons as noted in this study, but I’m actually more interested (and slightly surprised) by something else.

There appears to be an attitudinal shift by tech manufacturers to help temper our addiction.

What, a Turn-Off?

I was talking to a work colleague recently and he was complaining of email overload, like we all do. After chatting a while, I realised it wasn’t the volume but the distraction of the email ping and the little icon in the bottom right hand corner of his screen that scratched his eyes. The disgusting suggestion to log in every few hours, have a clean out, and then turn it off again fell on deaf junky ears but I think he’ll come round eventually.

Ok, we know it’s not a technical issue but a behavioural one. Nonetheless, tech providers are giving us technical solutions:

Don’t ‘Switch Off’ – ‘Do Not Disturb’ Instead?

For some reason, tech manufacturers think we can’t find the off switch on our appliances so they’ve given us the ability to half turn off some things, at some times. Useful? You tell me.

iOS6 from Apple has added the ability to turn down a call and send a text message saying ‘Busy now, call you later’, and a ‘Do Not Disturb’ button which err, does what it says on the tin.

Android users have been able to configure their phones to use Apps such as ‘Do Not Disturb‘ for quite some time.

The social media dashboard Hootsuite gives you ‘Quiet Time’ in their App and most notification settings on most devices can now be set to multiple timed configurations of bleeps, pings and whistles so you can get (or delay) your fix from specific platforms.

Freedom will charge you $10/mth. Yes I said 10$/mth to block the internet from your PC or Mac to stop interweb distractions. Yes, $10/mth… Personally I think if you have such little self-control you should shut down the computer, put training wheels back on your bike and revert to pull-ups just in-case you wet the bed.

Path will tell your buddies when you’re asleep so you can keep the App on but not be bothered I assume?

Ah bless, we now even have a button that tells our loved ones when we’re copping Z’s. Or is it to tell them to go to sleep? ;)

Inbox Pause, well, pauses your inbox… Oh please!

Do we REALLY need these functions? Do you use them?

The Retail Conundrum

On a side note. Should retailers and restauranteurs encourage the use of smartphones on their premises or not?

This restaurant in LA has made a stand by bribing you with a 5% discount to leave your cell phone with the concierge at the door (A 50% discount wouldn’t pry my iPhone from my kung-fu grip but hey) and they say 50% of guests take them up on their offer.

I’m not convinced this is the way to go. Surely you want guests to amplify their experience online while they’re enjoying the offline version?

It used to be that customers only went online to complain or leave a shitty review. This isn’t necessarily the case while we have the ability to connect and comment instantaneously with our phones. We’re much more inclined to be balanced with our feedback. And there’ll be more of it, naturally balanced by volume (unless your service is awful?).

Social commerce is here whether we like it or not. Social networks need to make money, and the ability to get deals or discounts on products or services is already directly connected to how much social reach we attain with a (brand’s) message in our feed. Forget the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, social media must have cut that in half by now?

Yes we need to feel connected, yes we want deals, news, traffic reports and everything else social media can instantly gratify us with but I also feel like something is tipping energetically with how we use it. There is something in the ether, not just from the manufacturers, suggesting we use technology smarter, in context more often, and at the right time and place. No longer zombie slaves, excommunicated from the present and local.

I normally finish my articles with personal observations and learnings. This time it’s pretty simple for me. It’s just one.

1. Turn it off – Put the smartphone down, close the laptop lid, case the iPad

… Sounds a little preachy/old farty (is a personal reminder), but all I’m trying to say is let’s simply be fully present in the room, with our colleagues and loved ones.

Let’s use technology as the tool, not the other way round.

Dan

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