How I Ended up Dumbing Down my Smartphone
Last week, I finished listening to Digital Minimalism audiobook by Cal Newport. I learned that social media tries to exchange the time we have with their service. They get revenue from ads shown to us when we use their service during our leisure time.
Due to how the business model works, social media’s north star metrics is engagement. Engagement translates to how much of our time spent on the apps. The assumption is, by increasing the amount of time we spent on the apps, it increases the amount of ads impression and clicks. More ads clicks means more money.
Social media improves engagement by doing a social engineering so that we feel that we miss something if we don’t engage with the app after sometime. Sounds familiar? That’s the definition of addiction.
They made unread message icon red so we can’t resist to make it not red. They put like feature to our post so we expect for social approval and check the apps several times a day to check how many likes we get. If they only want to “connect the world and make it a better place”, those features are not essential. Those features’ impact to our life outweight the benefit of social media.
I commute 3–4 hours a day. During my commute, my impulsive reaction to boredom is always social media. Even when I tried to bring a book, I ended up scrolling social media and did not read the book! This is crazy how I feel so lost without it.
I took a decision to take a step back. A month break, as Cal Newport suggested in the book. I deactivated my Facebook account and Instagram account. I blocked news sites on my phone so that I will not unconciously open it when I bored. I blocked all notifications except phone call. I uninstalled all just-in-case app and only keep the ones which give me true value. I dumbed down my smartphone.
Now, my use of time has changed. I stop spending time on social media. I shift my leisure time to read book, listening to podcast or audiobook, or just have a moment of solitude. I stop anxiously check my phone frequently.
I feel I regain control of myself, and I am happy about it.
This morning I listened to an interesting Medium post relevant to this subject, titled “Is Social Media the New Smoking?” . The writer propose government to also take necessary actions just like what they treated smoking problem. Educate the mass, put some restrictions, and some other efforts proven effective to reduce the number of smoker. I see no reason to not follow this suggestion. Imagine how much time spent on social media that could be used for something more useful. Aggregated by all citizens, the impact is huge.