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Former Apple Designer Speaks Up about Smartphone Addiction

Former Apple Designer Speaks Up about Smartphone Addiction

Tech addiction is a real problem… Should companies be stepping up?

One of the key players in the tech revolution appears to have come “full circle”. Tony Fadell was working at Apple when he helped design the now-ubiquitous iPhone. The device became the go-to gadget for mobile communications, paving the way for today’s touch screen smartphones.

Now, Fadell’s voice is joining a growing chorus of experts in addiction studies who are growing concerned about the effect technology addiction, and more specifically smartphone addiction, is having on us. These experts worry that on personal and societal levels, overuse of smartphones is eroding our mental health and social structures. Increasing rates of teenage depression and self-harm are just the most obvious symptoms, they say.

The movement’s proponents argue that we’re spending too much time on our smartphones, which is eroding our vital “real-life” social connections and making us addicted. Addiction experts see the same patterns in people’s brains when they use smartphones as when they use drugs or alcohol. The very same regions light up, rewarding the addict with dopamine…

Fadell took to Twitter to voice his concern and attempt to start a discussion. His series of Tweets and links tells a bleak story about where we’re headed if this doesn’t come under control.

“Device addiction is real. “Driving under the influence” = “Texting & Driving” Each day 9 people get killed, 1000s hurt because of it:

UK adults spend 8+ hrs on screens/day, children 6.5 hrs. Don’t ignore the link betw social media use & depression. 34% of people checked Facebook in the last 10 minutes.

The stats are driving digital detox movements globally:

Admitting you have an addiction is Step 1.

Step 2 is getting out of the environment facilitating the addiction: bars, casinos,, etc. But...our screens are big part of our lives. They’re our work tools, family calendars, emergency devices - we truly can’t live without them.

We need to control our own environment & we need information:

Step 1:  We need to know where the line is & when we’ve crossed over to addiction.

Step 2: We need our ongoing usage habits reflected back to us.

Our smartphone “bottle” needs to tell us we’ve had enough.

We need a FitBit or Apple Health for our entire life - not just physical activity, but digital too.

Captured in one place, using calendar that shows the history of out 24 hr activity patterns, and a way to schedule our future activities (physical & digital)

Apple Watches, Google Phones, Facebook, Twitter - they’ve gotten so good at getting us to go for another click, another dopamine hit. They now have a responsibility & need to start helping us track & manage our digital addictions across all usages - phone, laptop, TV etc.

They’re the only ones who can do this - they own the OS & app ecosystem. They need to do more, like single-use device modes: when I’m reading an ebook on my tablet, listening to music (ala iPod)…no email or facebook notifications, no texts.

They need to give access to that information to 3rd-party apps, so that we can manage & limit our time on them, control notifications, etc. There will a lot of great startups that will create useful tools to help us become balanced - digital & analog - again…

With (or without) these tools, it’s up to us to act:

Screen time rules, living in the moment, screen-free meals, relearning analog objects like books & writing & sketching, tech-free days for the family to be together.  (And yes it’s ironic I’m tweeting this…) :)"

Keep in mind, all of this is coming from someone who really knows what he’s talking about… Fadell helped design the iPhone. His arguments come from a place of deep concern, but also from expert first-hand knowledge of who has the power to do what about this growing problem.

His arguments were echoed this week by a group of powerful Apple investors. Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System collectively own $2 billion worth of Apple shares; in a letter to the company, they urged Apple to “develop new software tools that would help parents control and limit phone use more easily and to study the impact of overuse on mental health,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Do you think tech companies should take steps to better inform users of how much time they’re spending behind screens? Have you noticed the social impact of technology overuse? We want to hear your opinion! Head back to Facebook to weigh into this discussion (ironic, but hey, technology isn’t ALL bad!).

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