I hear a buzz of my phone. I pull it out of my pocket — and yes! I’m notified of another Twitter follower, what a great day! A few seconds later I hear a sound of an email alert. Fantastic! I’ll make sure I’ll reply to this email right away, the World can wait. While I’m on it, let me check my Facebook feed real quick, surely someone posted an update since I’ve checked it last time. A minute ago.
Sounds familiar? Well you are not alone. I’m no better myself. Even if you are aware of the triggers pulled, it’s not that easy to escape the addiction. We are addicted to novelty and instant gratification.
Ever been to a meetup where no one talks to each other and just stares at their phones? Has real life interaction became so unbearable that you’d rather resort to an online surrogate?
It seems to me, that consumer technology took a wrong turn someone along the way. Instead of augmenting and enriching human experience, it serves as a source of constant distraction. We created technology not to substitute our lives, but to make our life better.
Technology should be transparent
It should just work without you paying attention to it. You don’t want to pull out your phone, type in an address and then check it every now and then. You want to know directions. You don’t want send a photo to your friend. You want to share your experience with him. I believe that one of the keys to innovation is to be able to go to the very essence of the problem, avoiding developing ideas based on existing concepts.
Present ways of sharing experiences, be that text, photo or video appear to be extremely limited. Arguably, your own life experience is impossible to share by any digital channel, merely because the information we send is just a fraction of what we can perceive in real life.
But what is even more saddening is the fact that tempted by the modern technology, we are being distracted with a premise of self-promotion from actually living your life. Would you rather enjoy the moment or take picture and share it on Facebook so that others can enjoy it as well? Egoistic attitude you’d say, I’d say you are the only one who is able to live and experience your life, your Facebook friends can’t do that for you. Either way, it doesn’t seem to be of benefit to anyone: you don’t live the moment and other people are not able to experience it anyway.
One of the recent attempts to create a transparent user experience is wearables. Recently, sales of smart glasses pioneer Google Glass halted, the product failed, or at least its consumer market didn’t receive it well. The vision behind it was fascinating — augmented reality (AR) with a form factor of ordinary glasses. Unfortunately the execution was subpar — bad design, and instead of actual AR it was more like a HUD for your phone.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming Apple Watch as a less obstructive consumer gadget which you’d use in your everyday life. Some of the features seems to be rather gimmicky — such as an option to send your heartbeat for example, which seems to be another approach to share your experience, rather than just communicating information.
The way consumer technology has developed: social media, social networks and smartphones is merely a reflection of what we want, which doesn’t necessarily align with what we need or what’s the best for us. Modern marketing is abusing that fact, and even though the marketers have an excuse of just giving the people what they want, their techniques are indeed quite manipulative, mostly appealing to our basic desires and further empowering unconscious behaviour.
I believe, as product makers creating new consumer technology we have a power to create new user habits, and we can leverage it to in turn adjust social narrative. Use it wisely.