Always-on connectivity has led to an ‘expectation of instant’ by default.
We have never been as connected as we are today. We are connected to each other through our smart phones, to our groceries through our smart refrigerators, our household chores through our smart dishwashers, our memories through our smart picture frames…and so on. You get the idea.
This sounds great, but it has created a problem. Web search, email, social media, messaging, video calls and more, mean that everyone is always connected – and we now expect each other to be available 24/7. We expect instant by default. Colleagues expect colleagues to reply to that very important email at 10pm. Friends expect friends to open and reply to that not so important snapchat at 2am. And customers expect businesses to reply, and reply effectively, 24/7/365.
The ‘expectation of instant’ has in turn led to addiction for many people.
Constant desire for connection leads to addiction. People become addicted to connection and the methods of connecting. Everyone's the same. It's just how the world works now. You hear all the excuses about addiction to social media, phones and other connected devices but should we be worried? Yes, we should: in 2017, 28.7% of 18-24 year-olds described themselves as addicted to social media.
Hands up if you check your phone the minute you wake up? Yeah, me too. It’s in our DNA now: wake up, breathe, Whatsapp.
The fact that ‘instant gratification’ is also now a standard phrase outside of retail is linked to this change in our behaviour. Feedback-driven platforms like Instagram, Facebook and others have pushed this phrase to the surface. 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram every single day!! People want likes. People thrive on likes. This '#NoFilter' culture, driven by the rise of connectedness, has led to people doing a serious amount of work so that family, friends and even strangers will give them those all-important likes.
There is an increasing push-back on addictive media, and tech companies are responding.
Now that the mechanics of social media addiction and its associated neuroses (like FOMO and nomophobia) are better understood, society is starting to fight back against the intentional addiction dealers working in the digital media sector.
Tech companies have always been good at responding to the zeitgeist. They’re now starting to understand that consumers realise that being addicted to instant is not a great thing. For example, Apple have added screen time to iOS12, which allows us to track our screen time and add daily limits to individual apps. This helps give us a crutch to beat the addiction and negotiate our boundaries more effectively. I certainly was shocked at the amount of screen time I was having on a daily basis, and as a result I have now added limits to most of my social apps. Although you can still easily ignore the limit…and suddenly it’s 3:06 am and you’re on your 1023rd picture of teacup pigs. Doh!
Other innovations are also targeting this new addiction space. Devices with features that lower the colour spectrum allowing for less damaging use in dark surroundings could be a good thing or a bad thing. Wearable devices that push users to manage their health and sleep better can often negatively impact their users’ mental health, but some companies are now using them to offer rewards for staff to look after themselves. Innovations like these are a starting point; however, tech companies owe it to consumers to help them strike a healthy balance when it comes to product use.
Managing boundaries can help consumers break their addiction.
The techniques that seem to be most effective in breaking the addiction to instant, and striking a healthier balance in media use, are those that manage the boundary between real life and digital media. Basically making it harder to access the media in the first place. This could be as simple as removing an app from your phone, turning off notifications or leaving your phone in another room when you go to bed.
Or they could be self-discipline triggers: taking a walk when you want to check Instagram, or arranging more get-togethers in real life.
I’m personally trying to resist checking any devices or social media for the first hour after I wake up, and it’s been a lot more relaxing in the morning. I’ve a way to go, but now I’m conscious of the problem, I’m finding it easier to reduce the pressure of being connected 24/7.