consumer experience, mobile applications, social media

Social media slowdown – your smartphone is not God

black car on hi way with fog

I’m making a deliberate effort to reduce the amount of time I spend on social media. Sometimes it feels like it’s working. Other times it doesn’t.

I imagine it’s a bit like trying to give up cigarettes, that sort of ephemeral, temporarily distracting fix. That numb and mindless addiction. Social media seems a necessary evil that’s hard to entirely avoid if it’s linked to your work, and if it’s a deeply embedded behaviour you’ve had for a decade.

Smartphones aren’t for phoning

Today’s broadly covered OFCOM report shows the dominance of the smartphone on our lives has never been greater. The headline for many is that the number of mobile calls we make has fallen for the first time. Our primary use for smartphones is no longer to make telephone calls. Perhaps it hasn’t been for some time. (You might also suggest this is also a symptom of clogged up mobile networks, poor signals and a dwindling faith in telecoms providers).

As explored in a previous post about a digital detoxing, my relationship with my phone is a regular wrestle.

Certainly it can become too much, too controlling, too instictive and ingrained. You have a spare nanosecond so you take out your phone and open an app. And how do you feel afterwards? Invariably worse. This is the case for me at least.

Twitter makes me sad

After a scrolling binge on Twitter, and to a slightly lesser extent Instagram, I usually either feel a bit sad and inadequate: how I am so woefully unsuccessful compared to that other person who I admire or envy, how they are doing much sexier, more interesting, more important work.

three person holding smartphones

Or I would feel more generally glum about the world and all its super dumb people, in that toxic aggressive sense, the mass popularisation of unfathomable stupidity – Donald Trump. And / or glum about its pallid anaemic weakness, its volume of empty bland forgettable messages commanding unfathomably large audiences. (How is this guy such an important ‘influencer’ when he spouts such utter drivel?)

So I have started using it less, which is actually easier than I imagined. I feel more free of noise and don’t miss it at all. Sure, I dip in and out now and then but less instinctively and not when just faintly bored, to fill a moment or two.

Facebook bores me

It’s been several months since I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, which felt liberating, somehow eliminated an obligation. I still look in on the desktop, usually to manage a page or take a look at a group, and still look at my personal feed.But there are no regrets about not having it on my phone. Those urgent needy red flag notifications grew bizarre and infuriatingly irrelevant: Friends I May Know (who I certainly don’t know), a casual acquaintance has posted yet another photograph of their child. That’s great Facebook, thanks, bye.

Facebook is like a boringly repetitive loudmouth in the pub who keeps a terrifying photo shrine of you and all your family in his basement. I have no interest in going to that pub anymore. Its user numbers stock market value indicates I am not alone.
apps blur button close up

Social media increasingly leaves me feeling flat. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to depress yourself like that – unless you are a social media manager for British Telecom or something.

Care Less. Leave Your Phone Alone (Sometimes Off).

If it’s not your job though, why would you? Just put your phone down. Or you have a second thought about picking it up in the first place. You control yourself, reach for a book. Maybe give yourself a certain strict period of time (there are lots of apps for this), perhaps read only one fairly neutral platform for news, if possible.

You can reprogram and rewire, at the very least taper and develop an awareness of your usage. Decide not to care how many likes you get because it is all fairly meaningless. Dare to post without a hashtag.

Otherwise, you risk investing a disproportionate amount of meaning amongst the frighteningly lost hours lost staring into that screen. The link between rising mental health issues and excessive use of smartphones and social media is blindingly obvious.

These devices and their applications are engineered to tap into our insecurities and neuroses, to hammer us with notifications and never leave us alone. We are forgetting how to communicate, or never learning how in the first place.

It is not easy but we can choose to resist. We can look back to go forward. I find continued comfort in books, glossy paper, print. The old school hard versions and the Kindle versions. They don’t usually distract you with links and send you scurrying away down another rabbit hole of information. Also ebooks or podcasts. Take a walk and a listen and look at the world around you, instead of that screen.

Remember you can and probably should turn off that thing altogether from time to time. There’s lots of other stuff out there. It is not your God, it’s a phone.

business, general communication, social media, technologies

Vero – a new social media truth?

Vero keeps popping up in my social media feeds at the moment, specifically Instagram. It seems a large volume of users have started using the new social media app and are encouraging others to give it a try.

Seductively slick and stylish in design, it appears that Vero has a key feature of allowing you to arrange your contacts by your genuine figurative proximity to users. That is, whether they are a close friend or family, or a loose acquaintance. Then you can broadcast or narrowcast updates accordingly.

Continue reading “Vero – a new social media truth?”

consumer experience, general communication, social media, technologies

Power Off – how a digital detox restores factory settings

“Let’s not turn our phones on tomorrow” I suggested to my wife at the weekend. She agreed and we spent Sunday without them.

As we travel further into this scary journey they call life, it feels like there’s a developing need for us to understand, control and tame our own brains. We might think we’re in control of it, that we power its processes and rhythms, and we decide how to communicate. But increasingly we’re not and we don’t. This is largely thanks to smartphones and all-pervasive technology.

Mental health is broadly gaining more recognition and understanding. From paranoid schizophrenia to regularly feeling sad about everything, it’s a vast spectrum and a deeply complex area. We all have a mental landscape of some sort, which influences how we communicate with the world personally and professionally. We all have personal moods and struggles. There are all sorts of ways we might address these: different types of therapy, hypnosis, reading self-help books. My view is that a key one concerns our relationship with technology and primarily our smartphone.

Continue reading “Power Off – how a digital detox restores factory settings”

business, consumer experience, mobile applications, technologies

Early marriage for smartphone and desktop apps

Ubuntu - barking up the wrong tree?
Ubuntu – barking up the wrong tree?

New technologies constantly collide and drift apart again, some sticking together for longer than others. We crave golden solutions which cram everything into one swiss army knife of goodness and often come close to finding it, before realising it can’t quite do everything.

Continue reading “Early marriage for smartphone and desktop apps”

enterprise solutions, mobile applications, technologies

Picking a platform for enterprise mobility

The right platform: key in getting you where you want to go.

This year’s mobile news has at times seemed dominated by smartphone Operating Systems: which has the most users, which is the most advanced, which is the most flexible and developer-friendly.  But outside of consumer bells and whistles, how many platforms are ready for the serious test of enterprise deployment?  We spoke to TBS Enterprise Mobility’s Managing Director, Steve Reynolds…


Q: We’re hearing more and more about smartphone operating systems and particularly the rise of the Google Android OS. How much impact is this having on enterprise solutions?

SR. What we’re seeing in the marketplace is a lot of focus on innovation in consumer smartphone operating systems. There’s a lot of noise out there which, as always, can make it tough to gauge what’s significant and what isn’t. What isn’t in dispute is that the smartphone market growth is phenomenal. It’s quite possible that we’ll see another 1000% growth on top of what we have now.

Q. What does this mean for device manufacturers?

SR. Manufacturers are at the point where they need to differentiate through genuine innovation. LG is launching its 3D phone, and there’s been considerable attention on the birth of smartphones with integrated Near Field Communications (NFC) functionality this year.

Manufacturers need to also be aware of form factors creeping up on the smartphone. At executive level in the enterprise space many devices like tablets are used covertly, or ‘unofficially.’ It’s only a matter of time before enterprise demands more from manufacturers’ technology stack, and consumer functions formally and securely percolate through to enterprise class devices.

Q: Why has Android become the consumer OS of choice?

SR. It’s the consumer OS of choice for many reasons. Android is an open source platform that’s been adopted across device manufacturers who are each seeking to differentiate and the open nature of the system gives greater opportunity to do this. High end, sophisticated devices are being produced alongside entry level, affordable smartphones like those from Samsung. This has defined the consumer difference.

Q. Is Android ready for use in the enterprise?

SR. There are considerable challenges for the Android OS before it is fit for enterprise purpose. With open source systems come legitimate concerns over lack of control. The current Android marketplace for distributing applications has a minimal form of quality testing, with reports suggesting that as many as 4 in 6 applications risk breaching data confidentiality regulations. Added to this are challenges around security, remote device management and whether Android devices are more vulnerable to being hacked. We don’t want to see another Sony PlayStation scenario with mobile data.

But there is promise. Developers can program enterprise applications to protect businesses from these threats. The next 12 months will see enterprise-focussed organisations like TBS develop applications which are sensitive to OS weaknesses.


Q: With the breadth of choice, what should I consider in selecting an OS for an enterprise solution?

SR. We should be careful to distinguish between enterprise solutions and field mobility here.

For many in the corporate space, enterprise solutions can mean email and messaging systems alone. These requirements can be adequately accommodated in iPhone and Android systems – provided there is an appropriate level of security installed on devices. Perimeter passwords offer protection, while technical policies can control the types of applications which can be downloaded.

However, field mobility organisations demand the flexibility to grow and adapt their solutions according to tight specifications and specific business needs. Rather than purchasing applications from a marketplace, many organisations select developers who can provide bespoke applications which future-proof investment through innovation roadmaps.

Remote device management and perimeter security has been a key requirement for enterprise based solutions over the last decade. For those managing large fleets of vehicles or construction teams in remote environments, this is critical. Windows Mobile 6.X has largely stood alone in supporting these requirements up until now.

Q. Are businesses limited by the availability of operating systems and devices, or is there enough choice?

SR. If anything there is too much choice at the moment. Everything from Android’s rise, to Palm’s Mobile OS, to Nokia’s disposal of Symbian hints at an overarching consolidation which could ultimately converge to just 3 or 4 systems.

Multiple OSs with multiple Software Development Kits makes for a frustrating and confusing development experience, but the advent of HTML 5 heralds a real cross-platform development leap forward. Notwithstanding current limitations in its low level control of devices and an absence of rich control, in time it will lead to more fluent programming.

Q. What is the TBS development strategy for accommodating the OS market evolution?

SR. It’s imperative for TBS that we support as many smartphone operating systems as possible to give our customers the chance to innovate. To this end we have an intensive programme underway to provide solutions on all of the major smartphone systems, in addition to tablet devices. With device boundaries set to blur in the future, our goal is to ensure TBS customers can use multiple form factors and are given the ultimate flexibility to adapt solutions in line with their businesses.