Monday, April 13, 2015

My First Apple Watch: Solution to Distraction?

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I read with interest the recent Wired article by David Pierce entitled, iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch, specifically that 
"the Watch’s raison d’être... came down to this: Your phone is ruining your life. Like the rest of us, Ive, Lynch, Dye, and everyone at Apple are subject to the tyranny of the buzz—the constant checking, the long list of nagging notifications. “We’re so connected, kind of ever-presently, with technology now,” Lynch says. “People are carrying their phones with them and looking at the screen so much.” They’ve glared down their noses at those who bury themselves in their phones at the dinner table and then absentmindedly thrust hands into their own pockets at every ding or buzz. “People want that level of engagement,” Lynch says. “But how do we provide it in a way that’s a little more human, a little more in the moment when you’re with somebody?”
How intriguing; I never thought I would read that the iPhone engineers wish we weren't spending so much time on our screens and that the phone is "ruining our life."  Imagine stepping back and looking at everyone's interactions with their screens as you go about daily life, and knowing it was something you helped to create!

I personally wish that Lynch wouldn't have stated that Apple wants to continue the same amount of engagement (substitute the less positive word distraction or interruption here) but in a "more human" way. I was hoping that the Apple Watch would become a tool to decrease the distractions and make it easier to be in the moment.  I know what they mean, but I think a larger question is whether the majority of the consumers will adjust their watch settings in order to tailor things so they can better focus on people around them and tasks at hand (pun unintentional), or if the majority of Apple Watch wearers will spend even more time on their screens due to the increased amount of alerts/vibrations that they now almost never miss--"subject to the tyranny of the buzz."  Sometimes with my phone in my pocket or my wife's phone in her purse, we miss alerts, buzzes, and notifications. Wearing an Apple Watch, it would seem those days are gone.

So for individuals like me seeing a need for ways to limit distractions, it would appear that my decisions as to what information is important enough to warrant an interruption/alert/vibration on a watch will be critical to my success.  Failure to carefully weigh in the importance of each of these could result in even further "engagement" with one's screen(s).  Alerts on my wrist to text messages, notifications of posts on social media, Tweets, news flashes, etc., even if they are all just for a few seconds as the Wired article states Apple has designed them to be, do not seem to be ways to regain focus, especially with those around you.  

Back in December I explained that my 2015 New Year's Resolutions were to Cut Back on Digital Distractions.  Specifically I explained that I was going to:
  1. Use the Moment app to track the number of minutes I spend on my phone and how frequently I check it.
  2. Decrease my nocializing/digital yawning.
  3. Turn off app notifications to decrease FOMO and interruptions
Since then, I've done better for sure. I continue to track my time, I am trying to decrease nocializing, and have found increased freedom by turning off notifications. More an each of these will have to be additional posts... So the option to buy an Apple Watch has caused me to reflect as to whether this tool would assist with my New Year's Resolution or hinder it. I'm hopeful it might.  At the end of the Wired article, the author writes:
"Lynch is leaning forward in his chair, telling me about his kids: about how grateful he is to be able to simply glance at his Watch, realize that the latest text message isn’t immediately important, and then go right back to family time; about how that doesn’t feel disruptive to him—or them."
That does sound appealing. Perhaps a short glance is better than turning on a phone screen. I know you could argue to not even have the interruption in the first place. But with today's news headlines that almost 1,000,000 people pre-ordered an Apple Watch on the first-day, there will be a lot of people around us glancing at watches instead of phones, and likely more in the years to come. Watch behavior and etiquette will be an increasing topic of conversation in our culture.

I hope that all of us can learn to adjust our settings so that we don't have to glance at our watches even more than we currently do our phones.  We could all set things on our phone to not interrupt us as frequently as they do now, but few have. Perhaps the next level of technology innovation with algorithms at some sort of artificial intelligence level will be able to decide which things to even interrupt/alert/notify/engage us and filter out needless disruptions, prevent some glances from even being necessary. I hope so. 

I didn't pre-order an Apple Watch.  I don't think I will be getting one soon, either. The price is high and I'm not convinced what I'd be buying would make me a better person. I'm not convinced that my first Apple Watch will be the solution to decreasing the distractions in my life that I am seeking. Time will tell (pun intentional).

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