Time Not so Well Spent

Tristan Harris has been making the rounds lately - on 60 Minutes, The Atlantic, Sam Harris' podcast, and of course a TED talk (by the year 2025, we'll all have had a TED talk). 

His movement - Time Well Spent - aims to fix our relationship with technology, or more specifically, demand that the companies directing our eyeballs to our devices spend some more time considering and designing things in such a way that we don't fully lose ourselves. 

Tristan Harris is a former Google employee - another interesting piece of his reaffirms his street cred on the topic.

For many, it already feels like it's too late. I recently saw first-hand how a 16 year-old relative is a full-on addict to the various apps on her phone; every 10 seconds, a notification would pop up that demanded attention - 99% of the time it was a comment from a similarly hooked teen somewhere else in the world, who no doubt was getting pinged non-stop as well. The phone was surgically attached to her hand - at the breakfast table, in the car, before going to sleep and all hours in between.

Of course, she's not to blame. Adults - the ones making the apps and the equally addicted parents not far behind. Every day in traffic, a green light means less and less, as the driver pecks out a few more words or checks just one more Facebook post, usually only knocked out of their trance by my horn. 

It's not good for society. The New York Times last year published a piece on the spike in highway deaths, the largest in 50 years. Try speaking to a fellow parent at a playground (yes, it can get a tad boring watching the toddler dig sand for an hour) - chances are they won't even look up to give you an opening. See how long it takes for a relative to shove a screen in your kid's face when they come over for a visit (roughly 3-5 minutes). 

We're really close to the future that Wall-E has already warned us about. I don't have an easy solution - but being aware of what's happening to us and our kids, combined with initiatives like Time Well Spent, seem to be at least part of the way forward.

Jeff Funnekotter