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How to Get Turned On Again

Want to get turned on again? Maybe it’s time to switch off that thing in your pocket. Hey! Hold Your horses! I meant your phone, of course.

Switching off our phones has never been more important. While machines have long been a friend to human productivity (can you imagine having to hand wash and wear frozen clothes?), it seems the machines we use most, that one in your hand, is the one robbing you of your attention and time. In fact, calling it a phone seems rather meek, doesn’t it? It needs something bigger, as we use it for everything these days, and that dependence, both mental and transactional, is costing us.

Cue the digital detox, a time to disconnect your phone and reconnect your life. Easier said than done. How many of us can admit that the last and first thing they touch on a daily basis is their phone? We are attached to it, addicted perhaps, certainly dependent on it. So it’s no coincidence that digital detoxes are the diet du jour. Tristan Harris, co-founder of The Centre for Human Tech ( and featured in The Social Dilemma, likens cellphones to slot machines. They are in fact carefully curated distractors, a cacophony of bells and whistles in your hand, whose algorithms divert and capture your attention, and wallet. Make no mistake, your attention is the trading IPO of the moment.

Harris, having worked in tech, recognized the addictive pull of our modern machines and wanted to do something to mitigate it. So his site The Centre for Humane Tech, offers tools to remove apps that ‘profit off of addiction, distraction and outrage…’.; the most disruptive and enraging of all the apps- Facebook. It garners more attention per byte than any other thing on the planet. Mind boggling. In fact the recent revelations of former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, asserts that Facebook is actually an advertisement platform, rather than an informational one, and as such, profits became its key driver. The more we paid attention to Facebook, the more we paid into shareholder value.

So what to do? HOW can we switch off? I need my phone….

Well do you need it all the time? And what productive value does it contribute to our lives? Certainly the machines have been helpful, but it merits being aware of the machines using us, rather than the other way around. One of the restrictions we can do is to physically remove the apps themselves. A lovely App is the Forest App which plants a tree in your online forest for every productive hour spent on your phone or computer. As our creative productivity grows, so does our forest. Harris also offers alternative apps that are respective of our attention and time, rather than barraging us with notifications. Oh- and that’s another great tool- turn off your notifications. Tech and the cellphone as it is currently is so new, that it requires a new media literacy. Finland leads Europe with its media literacy curriculum, teaching kids in primary school how to spot misinformation, disinformation, and malware. Sounds like those kids could teach this old bird a thing or two!

Brighter days are ahead as we learn to navigate the future of tech. Getting offline means we can align better with ourselves and others, and the good news is that it’s FREE. What really matters? Who really needs your attention at dinner? Your cellphone or your date? Imagine where that may lead…. Now that’s a detox we can all enjoy!

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