Apple, Google and Facebook speak out against mobile addiction
In a kind of shy response to the growing social concern about the increasing abuse we make of smartphones, large technology companies release tools that allow consumers to control the time they spend connected.
In unconnected cases, the children of Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, did not have a mobile phone until he was 14 years old. At home, the use of smartphones during meals is prohibited and a maximum time of use per day is established. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, for his part confessed in an interview after the launch of the iPad, that his children had not used the tablet because at home the use of technology was “very restricted”. It is no coincidence that two visionaries of the industry, and founders of companies that have risen precisely selling technology, are fully aware of the dangers that this hides, especially in the case of children and young people.
More and more people feel nomophobia, an irrational fear of not having the mobile phone always available
Like all excesses, the revolution of intelligent devices also has its dark side. Are we obsessed with screens? Should we put limits on its use? Can we talk about addition? We slept with the cell phone accompanying us on the bedside table, we woke up consulting the notifications, we followed likes in the networks in search of social recognition, we walked in the street looking at the screen of the smartphone, we were not able to move the mobile during meals with relatives and friends, before going to sleep we take a last look at the screen…
“There is a huge problem of abuse of technology, I would even talk about addiction, especially mobile phones,” says psychologist Marc Masip, director of the psychological institute Desconecta, specialized in technological addictions. As he says, 77% of users suffer from what is known as nomophobia, an irrational fear of not having the phone fully available.
Silicon Valley takes a step forward…
The growing social concern over the abuse of technology has forced Silicon Valley to react, Apple, Google and Facebook have launched initiatives aimed at helping users control the time they spend connected.
Google and Facebook live from their ability to capture and maintain consumer attention
Google acknowledges that its consumer surveys show how mobile phones generate stress for users, says Julie Aranda, a researcher at the American technology firm. Aranda points to two reasons: many users find it difficult to disconnect because there are “many attractive things” to do with their phones.
In addition, they feel that there is a social obligation to answer messages quickly and to be available all the time. “Technology has infiltrated a sense of obligation and people want tools to break it,” to feel that “they have control over the use of their phone.” Therefore, he says, believes that Google has the responsibility to give consumers tools to “recover their time and not feel tied to their devices,” thus achieving a more balanced relationship with technology.
Facebook has also implicitly acknowledged that there is a problem of abuse of social networks with the announcement this summer of tools to measure and control the time we dedicate to this social network and to Instagram, also owned by the company that Mark Zuckerberg runs.
“We hope these tools offer more control over the time people spend on our platforms and also encourage conversations between parents and teenagers about the Internet habits that are right for them,” David Ginsberg, director of Research, explained in a post on Facebook.
Critical voices against social networks
The movement that warns of the dangers derived from the abuse of technology gains strength. In the United States, they have raised their voice from Apple shareholders to former employees of giants such as Google and Facebook. The so-called Center for Humanizing Technology, founded by former workers of some great American technology, launched in February a campaign to raise awareness among parents, educators and young people about the dangers of technology, especially social networks. One of its promoters is Tristan Harris, former employee of Google, where he worked until 2016 as an ethical designer. On their website, they warn of how these social networks struggle to catch our attention in order to sell advertising. “Obliged to outperform their competitors, they must use increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us stuck to our devices,” they denounce. Sean Parker, who was president on Facebook, is also very critical of the social network, which he accuses of creating addiction thanks to mechanisms, such as the ‘like’ that impel us to devote more and more time and attention to Facebook.
How much do we use the iPhone?
Apple has given its first response to the social concern about the abuse of mobile phones. In the next iOS 12, the operating system of the company, there is a function that offers users information and tools to better control the time they spend using applications and websites. Reports of daily and weekly activities show the total time spent on applications, how many notifications have been received and how many times the iPhone or iPad has been taken. Parents can access this information from their children’s cell phone or tablet and establish limitations to, for example, prevent them from using it at bedtime.
Google in the face of digital well-being
Last May, Google announced at its developer conference its commitment to what they have dubbed digital well-being. Among the initiatives, new features are included in Android 9.0 Pie, which will arrive in the fall, with which users can, for example, control the time they spend in different applications, so that limits of use can be established in each of them. It will also be easy to establish a ‘do not disturb’ function to disable notifications and a relaxation mode that darkens the screen to indicate that it is time to stop using the phone.
Control time on Facebook and Instagram
Recently, Facebook and Instagram have announced tools for users to measure and control the time they spend on both social networks. In addition to an activity panel, it is now possible to set daily reminders on Facebook and Instagram that notify us when we reach the daily usage time limit we have decided to set for these two applications. In addition, a feature is provided to more easily silence the notifications that jump into the mobile of updates in our social networks when, for example, the user needs to concentrate on another activity and wants to avoid distractions with his mobile phone.