The Pressure of Immediacy; A Smarter Smartphone

Yoda Phone, via Engadget

If there’s anything that mobile has revealed, its that we all enjoy getting information and being involved with something or someone at the point of thought. Perhaps part of that speaks to a stroking of our ego (if the message is coming near me, then I am important and valued enough to receive it). But, we also end up walking this line where at some point that all of these streams don’t just consume us, but change us in ways that we’d not figured before.

Two articles in the past week speak to this change, and the challenge that we all end up having at some point because of the persuasivness of mobile. The first worth taking into your contempletive moments comes from James Whately – The Pressure of Immediacy:

…These two notes are what, to my mind at least, drive the ill-perceived pressure of immediacy. As in, just because we can look up just about anything on the glass screens in our pockets doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The pressure to know something immediately is balderdash. It is fallacy, claptrap, and poppycock. It is a make-believe blanket of self-made suffocation that we have placed upon our own social and professional situations that really has no need to exist at all…

The second comes from Brian Feld – My Smartphone Is No Longer Working for Me:

I spent two weeks without my iPhone. I was completely off the grid for the first week but then spent the second week online, on my MacBook Air and Kindle, but no iPhone. I got home on Sunday and have had my iPhone turned on the past few days. I’ve used it as a phone, but I’ve largely stayed off of the web, email, and twitter with it. Instead, I’m only done this when I’m in front of my computer. I played around a little with the new Gmail iPhone app (which I like) but I’ve been limiting my email to “intentional time” – early in the morning, late at night, and when I have catch up time in between things…

In both of these pieces you see a resetting of expectations towards mobile and connected technologies. These are the kinds of things that should and shouldn’t have to happen though. I don’t think one needs a period of fasting from social networks in order to maintain a healthy perspective of them – I think that the engagement towards social media starts before you even get onto the service with the question “what kind of time/value will I assign to these kinds of connections, and is it worth what I’m assigning to it?”

I do think that we need smarter settings and tools within mobile devices in order to better utilize the attention spans we do have. I’ve spoken before about using Situations and similar apps on my Nokia N8 to turn the mobile off, ignore calls w/a friendly auto-message, etc. so that I can concentrate my eyes and ears on who/what’s near me, rather than what’s on the screen. Similar applications are available for Android and Blackberry devices (I’ve not seen similar for Windows Phone; to do apps like this on iOS you need to jailbreak your device). I also believe that at the network level, more intelligence needs to be added into services so that smarter actions can happen. I once wrote on what this could look like, and still wait for something like it to show up – but not be tied to a provider when it does (Google Now does something like this).

At the end of the day, what we do with this technology speaks to our value judgments. If we value time on the screen, that’s where we’d spend the time. If we value time face-to-face, then that’s where we spend our time. As ministries also walk this line into creating applications and services that make sense in the context of using mobile, we also have the responsibility that we are not designing away the ability for people to make intelligent and life-giving decisions about how this tech is being used. True, there’s something immediate about getting to someone your content that has a note of the saving grace of God; but its also important that they rely on God once they’ve gotten that message, not the beep of your application, calling them to a screen that they might not be strong enough to turn away from.