In the age of social media, smartphone and WhatsApp, we are constantly bombarded by digital distractions throughout the day and increasingly, the night. All of this hinders our ability to hold any kind of meaningful attention as we attempt and fail to multitask. In a land where meditation and contemplation compete with increasingly intrusive technologies, we really need to strike a balance for our sanity, productivity and health.
The popularity of the Indian Premier League is a perfect example as against the longer form of Test cricket where people can no longer afford the time to sit and watch the country’s most popular sport as technology-driven information fills every possible gap in our daily routine.
Much has been written about the benefits of turning our devices off, mindfulness and taking back control. Yet that is not enough for some who are unable to put down their device for barely 10 minutes at a stretch. So here are a few tips where technology —real or otherwise —can help one deal with information addiction.
Technology as a gatekeeper
If one works in an office, there is often the temptation to procrastinate and check social media and other information channels rather than start the daily tasks. A way round this is to use technology in one’s favour and employ tools such as the Forest App on Chrome and mobile or StayFocsd on Chrome.
Forest allows one to carve out set periods of time to work without distraction by telling it which sites one does not want to visit. Whilst one carries out their work, the app grows a tiny sapling into a tree and by checking things such as emails, one runs the risk of killing the tree —it really does help to stay on track.
On the other hand, StayFocsd also blocks out social media and web distractions and works very well.
RescueTime, a time management app, tracks how one is spending time on their computer and mobile devices, then provides a report. It’s a small downloadableapplication that can be installed on computers and a website where one can view statistics that the apps collect.
One can also set alerts to remind them how much time has been spent on sites or to block certain sites, so that one is more focused and productive.
NoPhone is better than a phone
If one technology has formed a strong, impregnable bond with us it is our phone. It is always with us, guides us through cities, helps us find love, communicate with friends and find the latest rolling 24 hour news. It is ever present, demands and often gains our attention over fellow human beings.
A way to address that is to turn the phone to silent or off, but that is too easy to get around. One option is to leave the
phone at home when out at work or with friends and family, but that leaves a gaping hole in one’s very being as the fear surfaces that one might have lost the phone after realising it is not in the pocket or bag.
A solution is to have a NoPhone, which looks like a phone but is stripped of all of its functionality. Coming in three different models, the NoPhone Zero, NoPhone and NoPhone Selfie, prices start at just $5 and are a modern-day comfort blanket for those addicted to their smart devices.
There is also the ironic NoPhone Air, which is just a sealed clear phone packing case — perhaps the ideal gift for that iPhone addicted best friend or partner!
Shock yourself from using the web
Everyone has some kind of a bad habit they would like to change, whether it is picking your nose, going to bed late or eating that second naughty desert. One way round is to reinforce good behaviour through placing a rubberband around one’s wrist. Each time one engages in their bad habit, they snap the rubber band and after a while a person will start associating the bad habit with the pain of the band slapping the skin.
For those too quick to dip into social networking websites such as Facebook at every spare moment, there is a solution that goes beyond the snapping rubber band. A company called Behavioural Technology Group have created the Pavlock a wristband that emits an electric shock every time one does something it has been programmed to stop.
The Wristband was created as a way to aid productivity and break those bad habits —it costs $179 and can emit a shock of 17 to 240 volts.
So if one finds themselves typing Facebook in the search window several times a day for no apparent benefit, they may need something to help them wean off. The Pavlock Chrome Extension syncs with the device to monitor websites one tells it to monitor, so too long on one unproductive website will result in a shock. After a few of these, Facebook will not look so appealing anymore.
(The writer is an information specialist, Information Resources Group, the University of Sheffield, UK)