Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How to Beat the Brain Drain; TRENDS from Instagram Greyscales to Auto Wind-Down Modes, Digital Detoxing Is about to Get a Smart Upgrade, Discovers Samuel Fishwick

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How to Beat the Brain Drain; TRENDS from Instagram Greyscales to Auto Wind-Down Modes, Digital Detoxing Is about to Get a Smart Upgrade, Discovers Samuel Fishwick

Article excerpt

I'VE spent 17 minutes on my iPhone in the past hour. By any metric, this is quite a lot. I haven't even made a text or phone call in that time -- I've been busy browsing apps and social media feeds.

In response to overloads like mine, next month The Royal Public Health Society will launch Scroll-Free September. It's an initiative to target a reduction in the time we spend on screens, which calls for "action from government, social media companies and policy makers to help promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, whilst mitigating the potential negatives".

Facebook, Instagram, and Google have all introduced software to help users to curb their smartphone "habit". The new Android 9 Pie and the Pixel this month patched Google's "digital wellbeing" software, which provides a dashboard to show your usage, including what apps you use most, app limit timers and a "wind down" mode to help you to focus on going to sleep. When you reach the time limit that app icon is greyed out for the rest of the day.

Wind Down gets your phone ready for bed. Grayscale turns your screen grey as a reminder to disconnect from your phone in the evening, and Do Not Disturb silences notifications for an uninterrupted night's sleep. An executive at Google's I/O 2018 Conference admitted on stage that color screen is "far more stimulating for the brain." "It's the kind of thing I didn't realise I needed but absolutely did", said one beta tester. "I'm genuinely sleeping like a baby."

Digital dependency is a national concern. I know my own mobile stats via an app, ironically. Moment was built by designer Kevin Holesh in 2014 and allows phone owners to self-monitor their digital dependency. "Back then everyone used to jokingly say that were addicted to our iPhones," says Holesh. "Now it's recognised as an actual problem." So much so that Nomophobia, the fear of not having your mobile phone on your person, has been proposed as a form of anxiety.

When the RPHS polled UK smartphone users, they found half of those aged 18-34 think going "cold turkey" for a month would have a positive effect on their sleep and real-world relationships; 47 per cent thought it would be good for their mental health. …

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