For those of us in the human-centered design community there has been some rather encouraging news from an unlikely space deep in the Silicon Valley "unicorn bubble". After seeing massive drops in customer engagement and also ad revenues as a result of that, Facebook has come out with some strategies to counter this trend - with some rather strong "nudges" to please come back.
A recent WIRED article provides fascinating insights into the cultural changes inside this orgsanisation as some of the most senior leadership turns it's back on this once so happy family. It's a complex problem: on the one hand it seems that FB is finding it difficult to deal with the ethical responsibilities of being a media company that can sway public sentiments with massive consequences for democracy e.g. see role in recent US elections. But on the other hand there is an even more disruptive (excuse the pun) shift underway which will impact not only Facebook but the entire tech industry. One of the key advocates of this movement is Tristan Harris - an Google Design Ethicist and someone that Mark Zuckerberg would love to get closer to.
After seeing the potentially negative consequences of an "always on" life dominated by invasive screens, continuous surveillance and predictive analytics, Tim has started the Centre for Humane Technology - with a rather strong vision statement: "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 health, democracy, social relationships, and our children." There is even a field of study called "Technostress" that looks at the destructive effects of smartphones on (mental) health.
Being an insider to this world, Tim provides some very convincing evidence about what the likes of Google and Facebook are up to. But he also leaves us with some very easily implementable ways to start regaining control of our lives:
1. Turn off all notifications except from people.
2. Go Grayscale.
3. Try keeping your home screen to tools-only.
4. Launch other apps by typing.
5. Charge your device outside the bedroom.
6. Go cold turkey: Remove social media from your phone.
7. Send audio notes or call instead of texting.
8. Texting shortcut: Use quick reactions.
9. Download apps and extensions that help you live without distraction.
There is a great list of latter on his site and as we know people long for more meaningful interactions, so why don't we give it a try and: switch off.