It’s Monday night and your paper’s due sometime tomorrow. You spent your weekend unwinding – socializing, catching up on “Game of Thrones,” following your favorite NBA team – because let’s face it, you deserve some down time! So you sit down Monday, ready to begin this paper, and instead, you launch Instagram, just to get a brief idea of what you’ll be missing in your social circle tonight. Two hours later with zero progress made, you regret wasting your time.
This June, Apple, Inc. released new, groundbreaking software that aims to prevent this uniquely millennial circumstance from occurring. Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference took place June 4, highlighting its platforms’ most recent iOS 12 software updates and forward-thinking initiatives. Users are getting excited about new ideas that will make iPhone harder to put down: group FaceTime, customizable animated emojis, an update to Siri’s intelligence and a 40-percent increase in overall speed. However, among the most radical of Apple’s 2018 announcements are those focusing on curbing our technology addiction.
Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted to CNNMoney’s Laurie Segall just how accidental the apparent iPhone addiction is.
“You know, we want people to be incredibly satisfied and empowered by the devices that we ship, but we never wanted people to spend a lot of time or all of their time on them,” Cook explained. “And we’re rolling out great tools to both make people aware of how much time they’re spending (on phones) and the apps that they’re spending it in, but also how many times they pick up their phone, how many notifications they get, who is sending them the notifications. (We’re) empowering people with the facts to decide themselves how they want to cut back or if they want to cut back.”
Companies like Apple and Google may be ironically seeking technology-limiting technology because of the recommendations of investors or because of the scientific findings that inform us just how greatly our health can suffer from staring at phones. Physically, screen time is detrimental to our eyes and neck, causing users to experience symptoms such as dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision and long-term shoulder and back pain. Sleep is often disrupted, especially when we fail to resist putting our phones away when getting ready for bed. The blue light emitted by iPhones can interrupt our bodies’ sleep cycles by interrupting the natural production of sleep-inducing melatonin. Socially, immersion in social media can warp our sense of how person-to-person interactions are supposed to take place. Emotionally, increased phone exposure can make us more stressed, worried and prone to depressive symptoms.
The new iOS 12 features were designed to counter these health detriments, yet are falsely idyllic. They will pose questions about how much time spent on our phones is too much time, or whether awareness will be enough to curb our enthusiasm toward tech. So how will we as college students react to the accessibility of addiction curbing tools – to the accessibility of phone-use knowledge?
What are these “digital health” tools that will balance out the entertaining advancements of iOS 12 – the advancements that will further hook in users? One key digital health feature is the ability to pre-set “Do Not Disturb” time, which will allow us to sleep or work peacefully without receiving texts and email notifications. We will also have access to a weekly summary of our “Screen Time,” showing us exactly how much time we spend on our phone throughout the week, how many hours (and which specific hours) we spend mindlessly scrolling through each app. Finally, if these “Screen Time” summaries rattle your tech-conscience and make you want to use apps less, “App Limits” will allow you to set an exact time limit per day and only permit you to use the app until you’ve reached it. Additionally, you can’t work around the limit by using your iPad instead for the limits and summaries can be synced across devices.
What troubles me about these new iPhone features is the users’ capability to turn on or shut off the technology limits. Cook thinks “ultimately, each person has to make the decision, when they get their numbers, as to what they would like to do. I encourage everyone to look and everyone to make an informed decision, and ask themselves, if they’re picking up their phone 10 to 20 times an hour, maybe they could do it less … But I think the power is now shifted to the user. And that has been what Apple has always been about, is giving the power from the institution to the user.” So now the user has the power to limit how much time they spend on Instagram or Facebook; the issue, however, is that the App Limit is not only voluntary, but the user also has the power to extend it.
Will college students pass or fail? These new software features seem to say to us as tech-users that our iPhone addiction isn’t our fault, but is instead due to the simple architecture of the updates from the previous operating systems. Will we harness the new-and-improved “Siri Shortcuts” that monitor our habits and suggest we mobile-order a coffee based on the predicted traffic? Or, will we utilize the “Do Not Disturb” features, the “Screen Time” summaries, the “App Limits” that comprise the up and coming Digital Health Initiative? We will find out later this summer when the iOS 12 update becomes available to the public.