Take back control

How much time do you spend online? Do you receive too many notifications from the platforms you are on? Do you find it difficult to switch off?

As it turns out, designers are rewarded on metrics such as ‘time spent online’, and not ‘time well spent’. So it is no wonder that we find the platforms we persistently visit so ‘sticky’. Experts have long been figuring out how to capture our attention. And the design of platforms is engineered to keep us online. More time online means more time to advertise, and more opportunity to collect information about our behaviours, needs and wants, handy for future advertising activity.

This blog brings you a few easy-to-implement tips for taking back control.

1. Turn off notifications, especially when they are not from people. Most notifications are generated by machines and not by people. They play on your fears of ‘missing something important’ and are specifically designed for the purpose of pulling you back onto platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, as often as possible. Notifications from people are delivered through Whatsapp, FB Messenger and Signal. Some people choose to switch these notifications off too. Review and modify all notifications in Settings, where you have the option to turn off notifications, banners and badges from machines and people alike.

2. Go grayscale. This takes the colour from the app icons that appear on your phone, making them less visually appealing, and, according to Humanetech, making us less tempted and less likely to click on them.

3. Limit the icons on your phone home screen to tools only. Examples of tools are Maps, Calendar and Notes. Moving all the others into folders makes us less likely to mindlessly click on them.

4. Remove social media apps from your phone. This is a tough one for most people because in-between time, like waiting for a meeting to start, is a good excuse to scroll through a few feeds or to check emails. There are two reasons to think about not reaching for your phone at these moments. One, it increases time for informal conversation and connection with those around you, which is good for getting to know others, cementing and building social networks and relations. Two, informal moments throughout the day provide valuable time to think. We might naturally reflect on recent events, process and make sense of new information, or allow new ideas to emerge through simple daydreaming. Removing apps from your phone takes away the option of checking platforms at every spare moment.

5. Send an audio-note or call in place of texting. The human voice is, human! Voice is rich with tone and audio can help to prevent misunderstandings. Audionotes tend to be quicker than texting, and they ensure that your visual attention is not completely swamped.

These tips were abridged from the Center for Humane Technology. Their website is packed with useful tools to explore, such as Thrive (turns your smartphone into a ‘dumb’ phone for set periods of time so that you can concentrate or relax, distraction free), Moment (tracks how much time you spend on your phone), Flux and NightShift (cuts blue light from screens that tricks our body into believing it is daytime and can hamper the quality of our sleep), Calm (a meditation app), Signal (a private messenger service) and many more.

Armed with these handy tips and tools, and a place to go to find out a whole lot more, we are all set to start the job of taking back control.

Time is precious. Put in place measures to spend your time most wisely!

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