Sunday, September 05, 2010

SmartPhone Addict? Partner with Fellow Humans to Create Mini-Zones of 'Digital Free' Human Interaction

(c)2009 Copyright Scott Adams
Are you in love with your "phone" the way Dilbert is in the strip?

Fred Wilson posted on his AVC blog on Friday talking about mobile apps for smartphones. The premise of his post is his observation that a lot of new internet software companies start now by building a "smartphone app" before they have much in the way of a traditional website.

But the interesting thing that came out of the comments on the blog post was a thread started by "akharris" that started talking about how with all this "digital chocolate" for us to snack on we are ALL now becoming highly addicted to caressing our smartphones with a tenderness that used to be reserved for our sweethearts, and we're doing it multiple times per minute. Unlike other activities with this reputation this "luvin up my phone" behavior might actually contribute to people "going blind".

It used to just be we tech-savvy, business-people with our "crackberry habit" of checking work email who were lost in this addiction. But its gone way beyond that now into the broader population and into our private lives as well as business lives. So how do we fight this addiction? Lots of good suggestions in the thread if you read it but here's one that jumped to mind for me.

I realize that directly fighting the urge to check the smartphone is a losing battle. Instead I need to substitute new, additional behaviors into my routine that balance out my desire to constantly check it. The reason we check our smartphones is based in our desire to connect with other people and have social interactions.

What if we started partnering with other humans that we meet in person to create time-limited, digital-free "zones of human-only interaction"?

People would start asking the people they meet in person to "Check your six-shooter at the door of the saloon" you happen to be in when you meet. The 2 or more people who meet would all agree to "drop their weapons" into a non-ringing, non-buzzing, non-flashing "digital storage freezer" where the phones don't interrupt the in-person interaction. This social contract would have everyone be 100% totally present for the conversation until everyone agrees it's time to "re-arm" themselves with their "weapon of choice".

People would start to set meetings where in order to participate everyone would have to agree to this contract or be disinvited from the event. Peer pressure is one of the most powerful motivators of human behavior and if we create "digital storage freezer" apps that disable all the other apps on all the phones in a duly designated "Human Interaction Zone" I think we may be able to get the best of both worlds.

The app for this would be called "Digital Methadone". You're still an addict but you're at least trying to control it and dial back the addiction so it doesn't destroy your personal relationships because you can't look up from that damn device. :-)

The app would disable the phone in which it resides and then report to the other people's apps that your phone is "in the freezer" and when all phones have done the handshake you could start actually having a focused human conversation using that thing on the lower middle part of your face we call a mouth.

Now this might be scary for a lot of people who are deep in the throes of "digital chocolate" addiction. But don't worry. Your Methadone app will make sure you get enough interaction in a day so you don't start foaming at that mouth and shaking uncontrollably. ;-)