How the tech giants are helping users switch off
Growing concerns around internet addiction combined with a desire to position themselves as ethical brands have inspired some of the world’s largest tech companies to launch some surprising new initiatives.
Tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Google are facing the accusation that their products are engineered to encourage addictive behaviour, which can cause anxiety and depression. From the endorphin-inducing ping of a smartphone notification to the gamification features in every app from social media to banking, the rulers of the digital world are now being held accountable for the effect their products have on users.
The stereotype suggests that young people, including today's students, are the most internet-obsessed generation, but in fact it’s digital natives who are most aware of the effects of technology on their mental and physical health. They are increasingly choosing to opt out, which could take the form of a digital sabbath, website blockers like Cold Turkey, or simplified devices like the Light Phone.
Several leading tech companies have noticed this trend and recognised that they need to take a more ethical approach to product design, or risk alienating their next generation of high-earning consumers.
Facebook and Instagram have introduced a new Time Well Spent feature that shows users how much time they’ve spent on the app, options to reduce notifications, and a daily time limit with reminders when you’re about to go over it.
Apple has also added several new tools to combat tech addiction, including expanding the Do Not Disturb feature, introducing a weekly usage update, and grouping notifications to make them easier to dismiss.
Google announced a new ‘digital wellbeing’ initiative at their Google I/O event in May. They said they want to encourage JOMO (the joy of missing out) rather than FOMO.
Time will tell whether these actions will be effective in reducing the effects of excessive screen time, but it’s a positive step from a group of companies whose business decisions have the power to influence and inspire the entire tech community. Here at Student Beans, our motto ‘empowering students to thrive’ reflects our goal to encourage students to get out and try new things, from restaurants to days out and much more.