The glow of my iPhone illuminated my face as I walked. As I waited. Like many, I spent too much time in 2017 starring down on my phone for updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. I thought I “was on top of things,” and that I had my phone use under control. In truth, my weekly tech sabbath (i.e., not using technology from Friday evening to Saturday evening) constantly failed. So, in July, I deleted Facebook and Instagram on my phone, I downloaded Moment, an app that tracks one’s phone use (highly recommended!), and I started to wear a wrist watch again. Going from the phone owning me, to me owning the phone, brought my focus back; to prioritize vital work, with time to think and patience to read.
In January 2018 two big investors wrote an open letter to Apple challenging them to consider the increasing addiction to their products, especially among children and young adults. The World Economic Forum addressed digital addiction during this year’s Annual Meeting in Davos. Although there is more and more research on digital addiction (see the proposed reading list at the end of the blog), we are not talking enough about this problem that our society is facing. A problem you and I are facing. Digital addiction.
We are together, but alone. We have to look up.
Children struggle with eye contact. Adults look down at their phones when you talk to them. They talk while they scroll. To build trust we need conversations where we look each other in the eyes. Big conferences inspire, while smaller conversations create change. So I started to organize Circles. Eight people meet, well-read and prepared to discuss a topic, without social media to document, but rather Chatham House Rules to create trust. In 2017 we spoke with a human rights expert from Mosul, the CEO of GAVI, and Kisulu – a Kenyan farmer fighting climate change every day on his field. When I look back at the year that passed, these conversations challenged my thinking, introduced me to new friends and helped me do a better job.
Where are we going? We need to look up.
When we look up from our screens, into the eyes of those we speak with, we will meet uncertainty, risks and problems that need to be solved. The World Economic Forum launched in January their annual global risk report that ranges likelihood with the biggest effects that the world is likely to meet. Extreme weather and natural disasters are those that rank the highest.
We have to look up to find our North Star. Where do you want to go? What problem are you going to solve in 2018? How are you going to use your strengths to make a difference?
Look up in between. Look up.
Recommended reading on digital addiction:
- Connected, but alone(Ted talk with Sherry Turkle)
- How smartphones hijack our minds (Wall Street Journal)
- Have smartphones destroyed a generation (The Atlantic)
- Why a dumb phone is a smart move (The Financial Times)
- The art of thinking well (NY Times)
- The secret lives of children and their phones (The Financial Times)
- Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked
- The real reason you can’t put down your phone