Stop: the most important word you’ll hear about technology

Who’s in charge – technology or you? There’s a very real danger that it’s no longer you, and that worries psychologist Adam Alter, who thinks technology might be making you miserable. We think he might just have a point…

By the time you’ve devoted hours to the things you have to do, like working, sleeping, and surviving, there’s not much of your day left. And unless you ration that sliver of leftover time with care, you’re spoiling your life, because that’s where the best parts of it happen.

That’s where there are hobbies, and walks in the park, and growing vegetables, and riding your bike, and a whole host of other things that might be grouped together under the general heading of ‘enjoyment’ or ‘enrichment’.

According to Adam, making a Ted Talk presentation, we use our screens too much. Sure, he says, there are good reasons to use them. Talking to family at the other side of the world is a prime example. But there are times when we lose the will to say ‘stop’, because we don’t know how, and the app we’re using won’t tell us to.

Adam says life used to be full of ‘stop’ cues. The end of a newspaper; the last page of a book; the credits on a TV show. All say the same thing. “It’s over; go and do something else now”. That’s something that lots of apps, and social media in particular, just don’t do. We just go on and on consuming. It’s the same as the box set binge, which TV viewing no longer defined by broadcasters, but by our own will to carry on. And on. And on.

And it’s in danger of making us miserable. Alarmingly, says Adam, we spend three times longer using apps that make us miserable than ones that don’t, but we seem unable to stop. We need to re-educate ourselves to stop and to step aside from the screen.

Being app-happy with Solo Expenses
That said, we’d like to think that our Solo Expenses expense manager app isn’t one that makes you miserable. We’ve designed it so you need to spend no time at all recording an expense, and with that done you can pop the phone back in your pocket and continue enjoying the view, or the conversation, or whatever else you were doing – knowing that having a tight expense control will mean more cash for the business to invest in something else. And we hope that will make you happy. Very happy.

Beating the addiction
So what do we do about it? Recognise that the screen can enrich our lives, says Adam, but that it isn’t everything. Put it down. Walk away from it. Sure, he says, it’s not easy. (He started by not allowing himself to use his phone at mealtimes, and found it a struggle, but won out in the end). Even Steve Jobs rationed the use of tech at home, and if he can do it, surely everyone can?

We knew how to be happy in a world without apps, and we still have that ability, if we’d just let it to the surface. Says Adam: “We use screens a lot like driving down a really fast, long road, and you’re in a car where the accelerator is mashed to the floor, it’s kind of hard to reach the brake pedal. You’ve got a choice.

“You can either glide past, say, the beautiful ocean scenes and take snaps out the window – that’s the easy thing to do – or you can go out of your way to move the car to the side of the road, to push that brake pedal, to get out, take off your shoes and socks, take a couple of steps onto the sand, feel what the sand feels like under your feet, walk to the ocean, and let the ocean lap at your ankles.

“Your life will be richer and more meaningful because you breathe in that experience, and because you’ve left your phone in the car.”

See the whole of Adam’s Ted Talk presentation here.