Feel Guilty About the Amount of Time You Spend on Your Phone? Here’s a Must-Read
The first thing you should know is that you’re not alone. Overuse of technology is widespread, and there’s more than a few studies to prove it. Take for example a study that states 3% of American adults sleep with their phone in their hand. Or another that suggests 10% of teenagers in the UK check their phones at least 10 times during the night. Things are not great, and this mess is precisely why the work of Mindful Technology founder Liza Kindred is game-changing.
Mindful Technology is a company that believes “humans matter more than machines, technology should serve us, not the other way around, and the most meaningful connections are those between people, not devices.” The work they do is an inside job. Instead of working with consumers, they believe there’s a lot to be done in the development phase of technology, and so they help companies create human-centric products.
Liza, who is also an experienced meditation teacher, began this venture after having worked for years in wearable tech helping clients build “disruptive devices.” “A lot of times that meant that these products where actually disrupting people's lives, and in my personal life, I was meditating, going to retreats, and focusing on being present, the exact opposite of the disruptive ethos. I just got to a place where I thought ‘I have to put my money where my mouth is’”, she told Mindful Feminism.
We learned so much from our conversation with Liza, and the thing that blew our minds was her take on reframing the way we think about neutrality and tech.
Here’s the deal, a lot of people keep saying technology is neutral and unbiased, it turns out that's not exactly the case. Disputing this myth is essential. First, because it allows you to hold tech companies accountable for the products they’re creating (we’ll explain why that’s important below), and second, because it changes the way you examine your personal relationship to technology -AKA the guilt that led you to read this article in the first place.
Let’s start with number one. To appreciate why we should hold tech companies accountable, we have to understand the impact of lousy tech solutions in our society. One case Liza brought up was machine learning or algorithms. Most people think these produce exact math-based answers, and the truth is “every single set of code has been programmed by human beings who have biases that are being built into the technology that we’re using.” This type of tech is employed to make crucial decisions like judicial sentencing. “When these things are biased it translates into huge problems for a lot of people, especially those of underrepresented and underserved communities. We’re bringing these issues into technology and then pretending like it's all neutral and they’re not there,” Liza explained.
Another example that made us cringe was augmented reality: “We’ve constantly seen instances where people who develop the technology are not as diverse as the people using it, and so there are things like facial recognition software that won’t recognize the faces of people that have a darker skin color –that’s obscene! It’s 2019, and we have to do better!”
In a nutshell, tech companies need to stop hiding behind the "neutrality card," and we need to educate ourselves more to actually hold them accountable.
Now, let’s move on to the exhausting guilt associated with tech addiction. This subject effortlessly came up when speaking to Liza, and we were relieved to hear her thoughts: “I think it’s important for people to start to understand that overuse of technology is not the consequence of a personal character flaw or a lack of willpower, technology is designed to be addictive and disruptive. People feel bad about the subject, but they’re not actually doing anything wrong, they’re part of a system that’s designed to work that way.” So, good news! You should really stop beating yourself up for checking your phone 100+ times a day. There are literally hundreds of people being paid to create apps that incentivize that sort of behavior.
In any case, we imagine you’d like to hear about some useful tools to confront the problem. We spoke to Liza about that too. She suggested you try taking action to change your personal habits, by –you guessed it!- taking a more mindful approach: “Making more conscious choices in the way we interact with technology is a great place to begin. I personally have some rules that help: I put my screen into black and white starting at 7pm, I put my phone into airplane mode every single night at a certain time, and use settings that make it less interesting and less addictive.”
Finally, Liza reminded us the importance of not being so hard on ourselves. “Even though sometimes it feels like we don’t do enough and we want to throw our phones in the ocean, remember that the little stuff, like putting your phone down when you’re out to dinner with friends really does make a big difference!”