Connecting Through Disconnecting Mobiles

17 Aug 2015

Technology has made it more convenient and affordable for real time interactions between people through myriad selections of mobile apps. Interestingly, it also appears to create a distance between people. Most evidently, it is common to observe friends and families sitting together in cafes and restaurants but each engaged in their own mobiles instead of connecting with people in their immediate environment.

Throughout the day, we found ourselves checking our mobiles regularly and responding to messages, reading social media updates, breaking news, etc. So what’s happening?

The problem with the real time messaging is the knowledge that our messages will reach the recipients instantly and with this comes the expectation of immediate response from them. Even if this expectation is not expressed, we somehow feel the pressure to respond as soon as possible (the “message read” indication definitely does not help). This may partly explain the constant checking of mobile even when we are with loved ones.

Beyond interference from the messaging apps, we are also bombarded by alerts from other installed apps, including social media apps (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter), email accounts, news networks, etc. We have been programmed to automatically pick up our mobiles whenever an alert comes in. If we are not able to check (perhaps you are in the midst of a meeting), we may be wondering where the alert comes from at the back of our minds instead of focusing on the discussion. Phew, sounds like a dependency issue? So what can we do about it?

I recognized this issue and had attempted to address this through the following strategies. Some probably work better than others.

Uninstall Uninstall Uninstall

Do we really need all the apps that populated our mobile screens? The truth is, we probably only use 20% of the apps regularly. Many are just sitting there taking up memory spaces, quietly zapping the battery and adding to our junk alerts and email updates. So, the first thing I did was to simply uninstall all the apps that I have not used in the past 2 months. This is rather easy to do (compared to decluttering actual objects), as you can always reinstall the apps should you need them in future.

Disable Auto Alerts

Would we miss anything critical if we only find out about the social media updates once a day? Do our jobs require us to be in the forefront of news updates? Do we really need to receive instant incoming email updates from our personal email accounts (probably mostly junk mails) or does it suffice to just check once every 2 days? The likelihood is, if there is anything important, you will call or send instant message rather than use emails or post on social media sites.

Hence, just disable auto alerts for all less critical apps. This has effectively removed unnecessary distractions and allowed me to focus on more complex matters at work. Do keep in mind that this process is reversible, hence no anxiety in giving it a try 🙂

Extend Duration of Auto Alerts

If you find disabling Auto Alerts too drastic, consider programming updates, say once every 8 hours instead of real time updates. (If the apps setting allows you to do so.) This will definitely help to reduce the number of alerts and therefore distractions each day.

Silent Alerts

For alerts from frequently used apps (do limit it to 3 or less), consider using silent or vibration alert rather than sound. This is less intrusive and you will therefore be able to concentrate on the tasks at hand and tend to the alerts at a more appropriate time later.

Disable Email Alerts

Other than alerts received in our mobiles, some apps also sent email alerts. Faint. If you are a regular user of particular social media apps, do you still need all these alerts? Conversely, if you are not a regular user, probably you are also not interested in all the updates? Hence, either way, disable all these email updates. It will save you lots of time (checking and deleting) in the long run.

Let us all be reminded that the function of mobiles is to facilitate connection with others and NOT to result in disconnection. Together, we shall learn to use our mobiles wisely and not end up been a slave servicing their endless alerts and demands 😛

Happy Connecting, SLC

P.S. Look forward to hearing from you, your personal strategies and insights into this issue.

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