“There are only two industries that refer to their customers as 'users': illegal drugs and software." — Edward Tufte.
In 2017, as a challenge to myself, I decided to go a full 48 hours without using any technology.
No smartphone, no internet, no social media, no Kindle, no television... nothing.
It was absolutely awful.
I used to joke that I was addicted to technology, but the withdrawal symptoms I felt that weekend were no laughing matter.
It turns out I'm actually addicted to my technology. And apparently, I'm not alone.
If you've watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, you'll already know that the big technology giants intentionally design their platforms to keep us coming back for more. You'll also know that most people get addicted to those little "dings" and "red dots" on your smartphones and computers, because these notifications trigger the pleasure center of our brains the same way that they might be triggered by things like drugs, sugar, or sex.*
The question isn't whether we're addicted to social media, or to technology. Most of us are.
The question is what we may want (or need) to do about it.
Here's a not-so-fun personal fact I discovered while writing this post: according to my phone, I get an average of 297 notifications per day from the apps that are currently allowed to alert me to incoming messages. If I'm awake for 16 hours, that's a notification every 3.2 minutes. Ding, ding, ding.
So I'm going to start by reducing the number of apps that can send me notifications. I'm not going cold-turkey -- mostly because some notifications are actually important and useful to me -- but I expect a 60% reduction in notifications this week based on the apps to which I've just denied permissions.
Once my brain gets less excited about incoming notifications, I may try a few of the other Take Control recommendations from the Center for Humane Technology. (It's an interesting list, and worth a review.)
I'd like to get my technology-dependence under control, because I don't like being dependent on anything.
Perhaps another tech-free weekend, uncomfortable as it was, might not be such a bad idea.
* If you haven't watched The Social Dilemma, this Harvard blog post is a quick and informative read that outlines many of the same ideas as the documentary.