Date: 7th Jun 2016

I confess to my addictions - what are yours?


SmartPhone Addiction Syndrome

The other day, while on my surfboard riding a selection of the internet’s infinite number of waves, I came across a video that made me laugh. It also resonated because at the time I wasn’t at my computer, or even on a tablet. I was on my smartphone, in my car (that was stationary) outside a coffee shop that overlooked the rolling hills of the Cotswold countryside.

The video, below, highlights the phenomenon that is ‘Smartphone Addiction’. It depicts smartphones being used in the operating theatre, a rock concert, a massage spa, on the way up the aisle and 'in the bedroom'. All places that surely the smartphone should be put away and the ‘event’ given your 100% undivided attention. Including the bedroom right?

But then I realised maybe I’m part of the problem. As a developer of smartphone apps I am contributing to the addiction of the masses. I am, in my own way, making the smartphone even more ‘necessary’. And here I was, in my car, ignoring the view and not sipping a coffee. But gazing at my smartphone screen. I was (am) both an addict and a supplier of smartphone crack.

And that made me realise a number of things.

  1. That even in my little industry niche I have a responsibility to develop my business apps only where there is a time-saving or efficiency gain. By making something easier I’m giving users a chance to put their smartphones away sooner. Quite noble don’t you think?
  2. That if I’m not careful I’m going to miss opportunities to spend time better. Although I did find the video and it made me laugh – I could have been drinking coffee and taking in the view for five minutes longer than I actually did.
  3. That there is still a limit of what a smartphone/computer/tablet can do and it should not dominate our attention.

Point 3 I can demonstrate in the following way:

See the image that’s accompanying this blog? Pretty groovy, right? Makes this blog attractive, right? Kinda unique huh?

Well that image didn’t come from a Google Image search. Neither did it come from a library of thousands. The very next day from “the wasting more time on my phone incident” I attended a 4N meeting in Swindon. In that meeting I met a visitor whose business is focussed around developing bespoke images that capture attention and provoke a stimulus for the reader to spend five minutes reading an article.

This person, Yola O’Hara, www.visuallyexplained.co.uk, is very very talented. She possesses a unique skill. Imagine how many blogs, white papers, articles, news, comments and just old plain text there is on the internet. And how much is ignored because you know what – it's just plain hard work to read it and it's likely to be boring. But accompany it with an image that brings a smile (or just plain curiosity) and you’ve just supercharged your Readership Conversion Ratio (RCR. That’s my own acronym but I might try and sell it to Google).

Going back to Smartphone Addiction Syndrome (SAS). What if I hadn’t put my smartphone away before that chance meeting at the coffee table at 4N? Maybe I wouldn’t have met Yola. And then the likelihood of you reading this blog (stay with me – you’re near the end of it) would have carried a minutely low RCR.

My lesson to myself is to build apps that demand less than 30 seconds of user time. Because the real value is still beyond that little screen.
BTW - Yola has a serious Samsung Watch addiction problem...

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Julian Buck

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