Batterygate might be a thing and Apple will need to deal with a few dozen lawsuits on the iPhone throttling issue, but my best guess is the same as it was for Antennagate and other so-called tech scandals that once swirled around Apple, Inc.
Much ado about not much. Besides, there is a bigger fish to fry. Why? How? Apple faces a growing chorus to help save humanity from the scourge of smartphone addiction. I understand the sentiment from shareholders, critics, academia, government, and researchers. People are addicted to iPhone usage, perhaps more even than Android device owners. What can Apple do?
About The Children
It isn’t just adults who find themselves staring into their palms at all hours of the day. Children have the same addiction issue. The difference should be obvious. What impact will such an addiction to various iPhone apps have on those generations in the future? I mean, other than making chiropractic and psychoanalysis the best career fields of the next few decades.
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, among other funds which own a few billion in AAPL stock, have pointed out that smartphone over-immersion can lead to sleep disorders, concentration problems, depression, and some have been led to suicide.
Clearly, humankind has a problem with addictions and it isn’t limited to iPhone usage. What is the long term impact on sleep, posture, eyesight, and social skills for a few generations that grow up with their eyes glued to a handheld screen that brings instant pleasure (of the dopamine kind).
Dr. Susan Weinschenk in Psychology Today:
You may have heard that dopamine controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain: that dopamine makes you feel enjoyment, pleasure, and therefore motivates you to seek out certain behaviors, such as food, sex, and drugs. Recent research is changing this view. Instead of dopamine causing you to experience pleasure, the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior. From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps you motivated to move through your world, learn, and survive.
Where do we get our most frequent doses of dopamine? iPhone.
Yes, this whole feedback loop makes sense but how did we get into in the first place? It’s not as if dopamine is anything new. Humans are thousands of years old. Did we not have pleasurable moments in the past?
With the internet, twitter, and texting you now have almost instant gratification of your desire to seek. Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds. Want to look up some information? Just type your request into google. Want to see what your colleagues are up to? Go to Linked In. It’s easy to get in a dopamine induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text.
Yes, been there, done that, still here doing it.
It may not be just the iPhone that has us in that rat trap loop of pleasure seeking. We see it everywhere from Facebook to Instagram, from email to text messages, from camera to websites, from YouTube to news– all of it available instantly on devices we can carry with us 24/7 minutes time for bathing.
What else can we do and where can Apple help?
One of the most important things you can do to prevent or stop a dopamine loop, and be more productive is to turn off the cues. Adjust the settings on your cell phone and on your laptop, desktop or tablet so that you don’t receive the automatic notifications. Automatic notifications are touted as wonderful features of hardware, software, and apps. But they are actually causing you to be like a rat in a cage. If you want to get work done you need to turn off as many auditory and visual cues as possible. It’s the best way to prevent and break the dopamine loops.
Turn off the cues. Hmmm. Apple gives us options on iPhone to turn off all notifications so it looks as if the company already has our best interests at heart. Apple could help us even more to save ourselves by making Notifications easier to manage, by reducing the clutter on the Lock Screen, by giving us more options to control what comes to our iPhones as a notification– and when.
All of what Dr. Weinschenk wrote above is just as relevant today as it was almost six years ago when she wrote it. We’re still rats in a cage chasing dopamine fixes and I don’t think we’re making much progress.