Is the concept of a tech detox about to go mainstream? Probably not, but there are a few data points indicating that more people -- especially in the tech industry -- are starting to realize too much connectivity via your smartphone can be a bad thing.
A few anecdotal items worth noting:
- A handful of CXOs I've interviewed recently have mentioned that they are trying to minimize phone time, cut notifications down and generally deal with their smartphone less. And they aren't going for a smartwatch to manage the deluge of messages. These execs are seeing their devices as more of a ball and chain than a productivity enhancer. You can argue that the devices are a bit of both, but the gratification comes from leaving the phone behind. Think of it like playing high-tech hooky.
- Tech insiders are experimenting with tech detox where they forego things like Twitter, Facebook and other noise generating connectivity choices. Some of these detox efforts last from days to weeks.
- More of us are doing the "damn I left my phone at home" trick or the "sorry down to 1 percent" move. Many folks have discovered that if you actually have to think connectivity is a bad thing.
What's notable about these small developments is that there's a gap between the masses and what tech execs seem to be figuring out. In New York it's fairly common to see someone checking their phone, not looking up and almost begging to be hit by a bus. When will that person realize that the text can wait?
It's unclear when the two camps will collide, but I'd guess that in a few years that the smartphone may be seen more as a shackle. The tech industry is trying to tell us that a smartwatch is the cure, but you could argue that the problem of overload just moves to your risk.
Research on the topic of overload and device addiction is just picking up. The University of Missouri found that smartphone separation can have serious psychological and physiological effects on iPhone users. Yes, the iPhone is an extension of you and if it goes away there's a lessening of self.
The University of Iowa also examined the impact of smartphone addition. Here's a portion of the questionnaire in the study.
Bottom line: These developments will have to be addressed at some point on the personal and professional levels. The question is how to get balance. I'd argue that some form of tech detox -- however small -- is going to be a necessary requirement.