It was with an air of surprise (and anguish, to be completely honest) that last week the country was made aware of a rather unsettling statistic. The average Brit now spends more time using mobile devices and watching TV than they do asleep. Eoin O'Hara counts the ways in which you can turn off tech and switch off.
To be specific the average Joe / Joanna now spends 11 hours and 7 minutes per day consuming media or using mobile communications - it's really a shock to realise by how much it surpasses the average sleep time. I have no doubt ye lovers of contradiction have already remarked the painful irony of this story; I am using a mobile device and you (more than likely) are using one too. That shows the extent of mobile devices infiltration into our lives.
24 hour connectivity becomes something of a more serious challenge for those starting or running their own business, with mobile devices smashing through the once fairly definitive distinction between ‘work time’ and ‘downtime’. We use them on the tube, out shopping, during meals, in bed and so forth… You can't blame your tools if they happen to be supremely good at the tasks they were designed for.
It would be easy to jump on the “We hate technology” bandwagon but I can't help it: I love my mobile devices and would never shy away from saying so.
During some recent research, on the internet of course, I was quite taken aback by the extent of people's resolve to loosen the hold that mobile devices have over them. It seems there is something of a growing movement of folks who rather than brutally renouncing the internet and all its manifestations (as has been the style for some time now) simply wish to curb their usage a little and claim back some time or other pursuits. In lieu of a more eloquent title I am going to call this "24 Hour Mobile Connectivity Reduction” or 24MCR for short (and #Hashtags).
99 Days of Freedom is an intriguing new project that was created in response to Facebook's recent surreptitious psychological manipulation experiment. It encourages people to abandon their Facebook accounts for 99 consecutive days The idea is to gauge what effect on perceived levels of happiness (if any) that taking such a break will have on those participating - an innovative turning of the tables, so to speak. It remains to be seen if a greater level of happiness is the result, but we can imagine taking part could at the very least free up a bit of time.
The problem with 99 Days of Freedom is that it requires quite a high level of will power, which let’s face it, can be in extremely short supply when it comes to mobile devices.
A number of new innovations like Faraday Cafe in Vancouver’s ‘Chinatown Experiment’ are going a little further towards freeing folks from 24 hour connectivity by simply giving them no choice in the matter. Those of you with even a smattering of interest in the principles of electricity will no doubt recall the word ‘Faraday Cage’ which is a cage formed from a conductive mesh which blocks external electric fields by channelling electricity through the mesh.
Faraday cafe applies the same principle to internet connectivity by enclosing the café in mesh that blocks out all electromagnetic signals making any mobile device essentially useless. The method may be a little more draconian than many would like, but nonetheless their sentiment is pure, to promote digital downtime and to encourage their clientele to raise their heads and engage with the here-and-now.
Those of you who like the idea of putting your phone temporarily out of action to experience the world around you will be pleased to know that this ‘faraday’ technology is now being teamed up with a whole range of other consumer products to bring its signal blocking properties to the masses. For example Focus: this fashion line puts mesh within everyday items of clothing, preventing any mobile device on your person from sending or receiving any mobile data. For those of you unwilling to take such drastic evasive action there are also smaller products like phone cases and even beer bottles which will achieve the same result.
Joyous, innovative and intriguing as all of these ‘solutions’ are, as I reach the bottom of the page just now I can't help but chuckle at the ridiculousness of it all… trying to solve the problem of tech dependency with even more tech innovations.
Perhaps we could just turn our devices off… it’s crazy, but it might just work!
By Eoin O'Hara (follow him on Twitter here @StartacusEoin)