Are You Letting Big Tech Control Your Time?

Quick.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? I’d be willing to put money on grabbing your phone to make sure the world didn’t implode overnight.

Was I right?

These days we wake and plug ourselves directly into the system.

No time for ourselves. No pause for self-reflection.

We’re mainlining algorithms, notifications, and chaos directly into our consciousness.

Do we have your attention?

a young woman looks down at her phone

The goal of every Silicon Valley company (Facebook, Google, YouTube) is to capture your attention. They employ advanced persuasion techniques that manipulate you to stay engaged on their platforms.

Over time A.I. and coercion have joined forces, and we now find ourselves officially outsmarted by the machine.

Not sure if you believe me.

Well, according to humanetech.com, founded by Tristan Harris (also the man who started the Time Well Spent movement):

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google have produced amazing products that have benefited the world enormously. But these companies are also caught in a zero-sum race for our finite attention, which they need to make money.

Forced continuously to outperform their competitors, they must use increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us glued.

They point AI-driven news feeds, content, and notifications at our minds, continually learning how to hook us more deeply—from our own behavior.

Here’s how each of your favorite platforms keeps you “engaged” for longer:

• Snapchat turns conversations into streaks, redefining how our children measure friendship.
• Instagram glorifies the picture-perfect life, eroding our self-worth.
• Facebook segregates us into echo chambers, fragmenting our communities.
• YouTube autoplay the next video within seconds, even if it eats into our sleep.

With persuasive techniques being the core of the issue from the tech side, how does the average Millennial who’s checking their phones 150 times per day escape the hook?

Take your power back

man arm raised holding cell phone

Now is not the time to feel powerless.

Organizations like Humane Tech are making huge strides to bring design back to the way it should be.

In the 1980s Steve Jobs asked two questions:

What is the technology for?
What is a computer for?

His answer was inspired by humans efficiency as tool builders, specifically the relationship between man and the bicycle.

Steve Jobs believed the computer could be the bicycle for your mind.

It lets you go to new places, be creative, visit and explore new frontiers and most importantly, it EMPOWERS you.

It’s time to begin using our technology the way it was meant to be used. To empower us.

Now, you might be wondering – how am I supposed to change how Facebook or YouTube run their platforms?

How you spend your time is always in your control.

It wasn’t too long ago that each of us existed and thrived without being bombarded with notifications or felt the overwhelming desire to check our updates for fear of missing out.

We can choose to engage with apps that help us maximize our time and then shut down and focus on living well.

How to take back your control

Turn off your notifications (except for human people)

If you’re looking at your home screen right now, how many red dots do you see? Go ahead and look, I’ll wait.

Now, how long did it take you to come back and finish reading this? You see, red is a color that just yells “pick me!”, so when you look at it, you need to click it.

It’s not necessary, or healthy to get all your app notifications sent to your phone. No one needs to know every time they’re tagged in a picture on Facebook or if someone comments on your photo on Instagram.

Keep it to messaging apps only – real human connection and interaction.

Switch to Grayscale

iPhone homescreen switched to grayscale

Our brains love that little hit of reward and excitement that color engages. If you take that away, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can cut down on your screen time.

Keep your home screen clean

iPhone home screen overloaded with apps visual representation of a clean iPhone home screen how to organize your iPhone apps

We’re creatures of habit.

Often we grab our phones out of boredom, distraction or habit. An easy fix is moving any “attention getter” app off your home screen.

What would this look like?

Your home screen could include applications that improve your daily life in some way, but don’t persuade you to spend more time on them unnecessarily

  • Maps – get where you’re going
  • Calendar – know where you need to be when
  • Spotify – songs and podcasts
  • Messages – communication
  • BookedIN – manage your appointments
  • Notes – don’t forget anything
  • Phone – self-explanatory
  • Waking Up – de-stress app for meditation

And then on a secondary screen, you would have any apps that are fighting your mind for attention.

It’s helpful to put them into a folder – a trick that gives you that extra hurdle before you mindlessly open them.

No phones in the bedroom

Before you even say it – I know you use your phone as your alarm, but there’s this crazy thing they make and stay with me here. It’s an alarm clock.

One of the biggest pushbacks for not having your phone in the bedroom is the alarm, but it’s also the most solvable. If you find yourself on social or a news site before you go to bed or right when you wake up, I implore you to spend the $15 on a real clock.

If you refuse to separate from your iAlarm here are two apps that help with blue light:
Iris
Twilight

And if you don’t want to commit to an app, make sure you’re turning on NightShift. This iPhone feature will automatically adjust the brightness/warmth of your screen on a timer.

Start tracking your screen time

two people staring at their cell phone in front of a theatre

If you’ve read this far but inside, you’re thinking: “I don’t spend that much time on social media” – it might be time to start tracking your screen time.

Thanks to the “Time Well Spent” movement, Apple chose to implement this app on all iPhones – but be prepared for a shock – and I mean, a throw your phone off your balcony kind of trauma.

All you need to do is head over to your Settings >> Screen Time >> Turn On Screen Time and you’re ready to start tracking.

Set boundaries

We’re all responsible adults here, right?

To empower yourself but still enjoy technology as it exists today it makes sense to set yourself limits.

Maybe you don’t touch your phone after 7 pm so you can be present with your family, or before 9 am to focus on a solid morning routine.

Either way, put yourself back in control.

Why is time well spent important?

Is it essential to become more mindful of the time we’re spending online?

I think so. And here’s why.

As the sophistication of persuasion in marketing increases, we’re slowly losing our freedom of thought when we don’t log off and reconnect in the real world.

We must focus on being present instead of continually railing between distraction and fear of missing out.

The moment we realize the choice is ours we become empowered.