I have no natural sense of direction. As a result, I think the GPS is one of the greatest inventions in human history. I rely on the GPS on my phone to get me almost everywhere and appreciate it not only because of its obvious purpose but also because it reduces the stress of driving, walking, and traveling to new places. It gives me the confidence to go places on my own that I normally wouldn’t try to travel to without a GPS.
At the same time, I’ve become aware of how overly reliant I’ve become on my GPS and how I tend to use it in a way that does not necessarily help me become engaged with, aware of, and attuned to my surroundings.
I’ve recently tried to start applying mindfulness to my use of the GPS, and here’s what I’ve noticed and learned so far.
Each of the companies has a different name for the department responsible for the initiatives. Apple calls it “Digital Health” whereas Google calls it “Digital Well Being.” Right at the top of Google’s Digital Well Being webpage, it says, “Great Technology should improve life, not distract from it.”
A Great Message
The initiatives are going to include a variety of features for their products, like an enhanced version of Do Not Disturb and other ways of giving users more control over how and when they’re interrupted or distracted by their devices. Some features will provide you with in-depth, quantitative information about how frequently you’re using your phone and what you use it for.
I think the details of these initiatives aren’t as important as the magnitude of the message Apple and Google are sending.
Like most companies on the internet, they have based a significant part of their business model on distracting people and encouraging them to maximize how much time they spend on their products and devices.
The launch of these company-wide initiatives is a pretty groundbreaking and historic event for two of the big five tech companies. The fact that they’ve decided to create and make major announcements about these initiatives shows that they are taking the problems seriously enough to invest in shifting their direction to enable people to live more balanced technological lives.
A Shift in Direction
It’s clear that some of the features of these initiatives will help people to spend less time using the devices and apps that Google and Apple make and sell. They must have decided that this would be more helpful to them overall from a business perspective.
I’m sure part of it was in response to increasing demand from individuals and businesses to address the problems of constant distraction and overuse of technology. Some of it may have been the result of a desire for people to use their devices in limited ways rather than not at all to avoid distraction. I don’t know what all of the reasons were behind these decisions. To a certain extent, they don’t matter to me.
In the end, it’s certainly a positive that these two huge tech companies have taken the initiative to display that they care about the well being of their users. I applaud Google and Apple for taking these steps and moving their future technology development plans in a direction that will give people more transparent information about how they’re using their products and more power over how they use them.
With all that said, both companies have previously taken other steps to address digital addiction and all of the issues we discuss on this blog. Let’s stay mindful of how they implement these major initiatives in response to our needs.