How Healthy is Your Online Behaviour?

Is this you right now? Roughly 33 browser tabs open - each one you plan to get back to in just a moment? Three minutes of focused attention on your work, followed by a quick check on your Facebook feed or Twitter account?

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"Our society is being hijacked by technology.

What began as a race to monetize our attention is now eroding the pillars of our society: mental healthdemocracysocial relationships, and our children."

For some time now, we've been a fan of Tristan Harris, ex-Google employee and current advocate for getting control of our own minds again. His Time Well Spent movement is gaining steam and has morphed into the Center for Humane Technology - creators of the quote above - and he's warned that we are no match for exceedingly well-heeled, hyper-smart companies that now exactly how to capture (and keep) our attention. 

If you think the problem is you and your weakness, go easy on yourself for a moment. As Harris puts it, "“The ‘I don’t have enough willpower’ conversation misses the fact that there are 1,000 people on the other side of the screen whose job is to break down the self-regulation that you have". He's referring to the employees crafting apps and algorithms to keep you clicking and scrolling and reading well beyond any useful amount of time.

Against such an army, who among us has the fortitude to succeed?

That's why at Tent Communications we've started using HabitLab, a Chrome extension created by Stanford University (and constantly being optimized on GitHub) that uses a number of tools to make you more aware of how you're spending your time online. The extension helps curb your access to certain sites that you can't seem to resist, or at the very least it makes you more aware of how you're spending your time.

One of our favourite functions of the site? Delaying your access to it, even suggesting you "take a deep breath" before deciding whether or not to continue onto the site. It's a form of enforced mindfulness for your computer habits. 

As the comment above reflects, this goes beyond work: as parents (and online addicts ourselves) and members of society, it is truly an important cause - now and for the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

Jeff Funnekotter