Roger Waters asked rhetorically “Who needs information?” in 1985 on his album Radio K.A.O.S. The answer is, sadly, one fifth of the workforce, who keep their Blackberries on at all times, night, day, weekend and wedding anniversary. I’m all for sight, sound and motion, and the enhancement of the screen to become a force for good in the world, but not at the expense of the world itself.
Enhancement doesn’t mean dominating your time, it doesn’t mean taking all of your focus. It should be about providing extra joy, happier attention, useful solutions – none of these are time dependent.
Some studies suggest that UK workers are doing an extra 10 days work a year just checking their handhelds. The quality of that work is likely to be substandard – staying informed doesn’t necessarily mean making good decisions, or making any decisions at all. And if you don’t have to make a decision, what are you checking for?
What’s ironic is that buyers of these smartphones are not even happy with the phones they have in their hands. Apparently "57% of smartphone users are disappointed with handset and application performance." Which goes to show that it takes more than technology to make the screen come alive – it’s about how consumers feel about what they are interacting with. You can hardly blame a manufacturer for wanting to make a good phone with good features though. The responsibility lies with ourselves.
So turn your screens off every now and then, read the bus timetable at the station rather than asking your app for it, talk to the person next to you without wondering when the next work email is coming, and what will be in it, and enjoy every minute of your life that you can (and men, I’m looking at you, you’re even worse at switching off).
The result? When you turn on your screen, you’ll be fresher, more decisive, more certain of whether an app or a feature will work for you, more delighted with the innovation in front of you. The information will jump out, and it will probably be the information you’re looking for.