Why our screens make us less happy | Adam Alter

So, a few years ago I heard
an interesting rumor. Apparently, the head
of a large pet food company would go into the annual
shareholder's meeting with can of dog food. And he would eat the can of dog food. And this was his way of convincing them
that if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for their pets. This strategy is now known
as "dogfooding," and it's a common strategy
in the business world. It doesn't mean everyone
goes in and eats dog food, but businesspeople
will use their own products to demonstrate that they feel — that they're confident in them. Now, this is a widespread practice, but I think what's really interesting
is when you find exceptions to this rule, when you find cases of businesses
or people in businesses who don't use their own products.

Turns out there's one industry
where this happens in a common way, in a pretty regular way, and that is the screen-based
tech industry. So, in 2010, Steve Jobs,
when he was releasing the iPad, described the iPad as a device
that was "extraordinary." "The best browsing experience
you've ever had; way better than a laptop,
way better than a smartphone. It's an incredible experience." A couple of months later,
he was approached by a journalist from the New York Times, and they had a long phone call. At the end of the call, the journalist threw in a question
that seemed like a sort of softball. He said to him, "Your kids
must love the iPad." There's an obvious answer to this, but what Jobs said
really staggered the journalist.

He was very surprised, because he said, "They haven't used it. We limit how much technology
our kids use at home." This is a very common thing
in the tech world. In fact, there's a school
quite near Silicon Valley called the Waldorf School
of the Peninsula, and they don't introduce screens
until the eighth grade. What's really interesting about the school is that 75 percent
of the kids who go there have parents who are high-level
Silicon Valley tech execs. So when I heard about this, I thought
it was interesting and surprising, and it pushed me to consider
what screens were doing to me and to my family and the people I loved, and to people at large.

So for the last five years, as a professor of business and psychology, I've been studying the effect
of screens on our lives. And I want to start by just focusing
on how much time they take from us, and then we can talk about
what that time looks like. What I'm showing you here
is the average 24-hour workday at three different points in history: 2007 — 10 years ago — 2015 and then data that I collected,
actually, only last week.

And a lot of things haven't changed all that much. We sleep roughly seven-and-a-half
to eight hours a day; some people say that's declined slightly,
but it hasn't changed much. We work eight-and-a-half
to nine hours a day. We engage in survival activities — these are things like eating
and bathing and looking after kids — about three hours a day. That leaves this white space. That's our personal time. That space is incredibly important to us. That's the space where we do things
that make us individuals. That's where hobbies happen,
where we have close relationships, where we really think about our lives,
where we get creative, where we zoom back and try to work out whether our lives have been meaningful. We get some of that from work as well, but when people look back on their lives and wonder what their lives have been like at the end of their lives, you look at the last things they say — they are talking about those moments
that happen in that white personal space.

So it's sacred; it's important to us. Now, what I'm going to do is show you how much of that space
is taken up by screens across time. In 2007, this much. That was the year that Apple
introduced the first iPhone. Eight years later, this much. Now, this much. That's how much time we spend
of that free time in front of our screens. This yellow area, this thin sliver,
is where the magic happens. That's where your humanity lives. And right now, it's in a very small box. So what do we do about this? Well, the first question is: What does that red space look like? Now, of course, screens are miraculous in a lot of ways. I live in New York, a lot of my family lives in Australia, and I have a one-year-old son.

The way I've been able to introduce
them to him is with screens. I couldn't have done that
15 or 20 years ago in quite the same way. So there's a lot of good
that comes from them. One thing you can do is ask yourself: What goes on during that time? How enriching are the apps
that we're using? And some are enriching. If you stop people while
they're using them and say, "Tell us how you feel right now," they say they feel pretty good
about these apps — those that focus on relaxation,
exercise, weather, reading, education and health.

They spend an average of nine
minutes a day on each of these. These apps make them much less happy. About half the people, when you interrupt
them and say, "How do you feel?" say they don't feel good about using them. What's interesting about these — dating, social networking, gaming, entertainment, news, web browsing — people spend 27 minutes a day
on each of these. We're spending three times longer
on the apps that don't make us happy. That doesn't seem very wise. One of the reasons we spend
so much time on these apps that make us unhappy is they rob us of stopping cues. Stopping cues were everywhere
in the 20th century. They were baked into everything we did. A stopping cue is basically a signal
that it's time to move on, to do something new,
to do something different. And — think about newspapers;
eventually you get to the end, you fold the newspaper away,
you put it aside. The same with magazines, books —
you get to the end of a chapter, prompts you to consider
whether you want to continue.

You watched a show on TV,
eventually the show would end, and then you'd have a week
until the next one came. There were stopping cues everywhere. But the way we consume media today
is such that there are no stopping cues. The news feed just rolls on, and everything's bottomless:
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, text messaging, the news. And when you do check
all sorts of other sources, you can just keep going on and on and on. So, we can get a cue about what to do
from Western Europe, where they seem to have a number
of pretty good ideas in the workplace.

Here's one example.
This is a Dutch design firm. And what they've done
is rigged the desks to the ceiling. And at 6pm every day, it doesn't matter who you're emailing
or what you're doing, the desks rise to the ceiling. (Laughter) (Applause) Four days a week, the space
turns into a yoga studio, one day a week, into a dance club. It's really up to you which ones
you stick around for. But this is a great stopping rule, because it means at the end of the day, everything stops, there's no way to work. At Daimler, the German car company,
they've got another great strategy. When you go on vacation, instead of saying,
"This person's on vacation, they'll get back to you eventually," they say, "This person's on vacation,
so we've deleted your email. This person will never see
the email you just sent." (Laughter) "You can email back in a couple of weeks, or you can email someone else." (Laughter) And so — (Applause) You can imagine what that's like.

You go on vacation,
and you're actually on vacation. The people who work at this company feel that they actually get a break from work. But of course, that doesn't tell us much about what we should do
at home in our own lives, so I want to make some suggestions. It's easy to say, between 5 and 6pm,
I'm going to not use my phone. The problem is, 5 and 6pm
looks different on different days. I think a far better strategy is to say, I do certain things every day, there are certain occasions
that happen every day, like eating dinner.

Sometimes I'll be alone, sometimes with other people, sometimes in a restaurant, sometimes at home, but the rule that I've adopted is:
I will never use my phone at the table. It's far away, as far away as possible. Because we're really bad
at resisting temptation. But when you have a stopping cue
that, every time dinner begins, my phone goes far away, you avoid temptation all together. At first, it hurts. I had massive FOMO. (Laughter) I struggled. But what happens is, you get used to it. You overcome the withdrawal
the same way you would from a drug, and what happens is, life becomes
more colorful, richer, more interesting — you have better conversations. You really connect with the people
who are there with you. I think it's a fantastic strategy, and we know it works,
because when people do this — and I've tracked a lot of people
who have tried this — it expands. They feel so good about it, they start doing it for the first
hour of the day in the morning. They start putting their phones
on airplane mode on the weekend.

That way, your phone remains a camera,
but it's no longer a phone. It's a really powerful idea, and we know people feel much better
about their lives when they do this. So what's the take home here? Screens are miraculous;
I've already said that, and I feel that it's true. But the way we use them is 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 by, 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.

Thank you. (Applause).

As found on YouTube

Android 12 preview: here’s Google’s radical new design

(rubs hands) – Android 12, it is here
or it's being announced. The new beta where Google
actually tells us what the biggest new user
facing features will be, has been announced. And, I have seen a demo
and I've played around with the beta here on my phone, and I have some thoughts. Do you wanna hear my thoughts or would you rather just see
what's new in Android 12? Oh, why not both… This is Android 12. (upbeat music) Android 12 looks different
from what you're used to on Android, actually very different. Google says that this is
the biggest visual overhaul since 2014, or maybe ever, depending
on who you're asking. And yeah, a lot of the pieces of this operating system here do look very different, but it all basically still works the same. You've got a home screen, you swipe up for apps, you swipe on for quick settings and for your notifications,
etcetera, etcetera.

What you're really looking at here with these big buttons and
the really big bubbly sliders and so on is how the Android team has decided to implement a new design system that Google is calling Material U. Now, Material UX or material UI just Material U like Y O U, whatever. Now, when you're looking at the B roll and the screen recordings and the screenshots on this phone, you should know that it is how Google is implementing Material U on the Pixel. Whether and how Samsung or Xiaomi or OnePlus decide to implement
it is going to be different. And also, you know, much later because their updates always
come later than the Pixel. Anyway, I don't have the full details on Material U and how it works and so on. But, I do know that it's
supposed to apply to everything from the web to Android,
to apps, to even hardware.

What that means is I'm just,
I'm not going to get any of the HETI UI versus UX versus you. You stuff here. I'm just going to talk about what I am seeing here on this phone. And what I am seeing is good. For the Android team the U part of material you hear is an
automatic theming system. So, when you set a new wallpaper you're gonna to be given
the option to have Android pull up some colors from your photo and then, apply that theme with
those colors to the system. So you can see here that the
buttons have turned green, and there's also an algorithm for pulling out complementary
colors from the photo. It's kind of neat, but I don't know that I would have picked
this particular green if I were beaming at myself. And the good news is is you can pick whatever
colors you really want to. So that's neat, but really I
can tell you the whole story of this visual redesign just by looking at a couple
of screen recording.

So, here's Android 11
and here is Andrew 12. So first there's a bunch of new like lighting effects when you unlock the phone,
you can kinda see colors and shadows and light kinda sweep around. And, in general there's just more animations all over the operating system. And we're gonna come
back to why that is, but look, they're even taking advantage of these animations on
the lock screen buttons, and you can see the little color from the material U theming as well. Now, when we pull down the quick settings
and notification shade you see that they are just
very big, easy to recognize easy to understand buttons. Google's just not afraid of taking up more space with all of their UI and they're not trying to cram everything into the most information
dense thing possible.

I actually think it's
like a nice direction. There is another subtle difference in the notification shade, you can see that it's just covering
the entire screen instead of sort of being a translucent layer over. It makes it into an entirely new space. And if you look at the
notifications themselves you'll see that they're
groups together and signified by a bunch of bubbles for
each individual group. So there's conversations and silent notifications and whatever. But if you slide an
individual notification away there's this really
subtle effect where the hard corner turns into a bubble for just that notification to indicate that is its own separate thing. Now on the home screen, let's just pause a moment
to look at these widgets. They are brand new and they're based on an entirely new
system for making widgets that is based on these principles from the material U design system.

So, Google is gonna
update a bunch of their own widgets, but they're also hoping that they can get a bunch of developers on board to update their old
widgets to the new system. And, I really hope it works
because the widget ecosystem on Android has gotten really
crufty and messy over time and it is due for a refresh. Now, next stop are quick settings and Google changes quick
settings every single year. And this year is no different. The new thing this year is that the buttons are huge! I mean, just look at
them, but I don't know. I kinda like it. Google also puts smart home controls and Google wallet into
quick settings finally, which means that now holding
down the power button brings up the assistant just like it does on the iPhone
and on Galaxy phones. And all of that means "adiós weird power button menu from Android 11!". You tried… Finally in quick settings there are toggles for
camera and mic access and we're going to get
to those in a minute.

Oh you know what, one more
thing I just have to talk about that's not in the screen
recordings, the new lock screen when you don't have any notifications you have this giant clock on it and it's dope and it
matches your color theme. We do have notifications. It's still pretty big. It just gets a little bit smaller. It's a good lock screen! Now the version of the Android beta that Google is releasing
this month, doesn't have all of the gewgaws and bells and
whistles that you just saw but, there's enough here that you can see where
Google is going with it.

Like, even if you just
look at the settings I have all of the icons
and the text is bigger and they've got this new
over scroll animation that kinda squeezes things together. It's a big redesign but it's not a complete overhaul
of how everything works. Every design gets crufty over time. And Android was definitely
starting to show a lot of inconsistencies as new features piled on and old ones were kind of half forgotten. I see this design as a general cleanup. All the buttons are big and bubbly and I see a sense that things are going to be a
little bit more coherent now, and, I dig that. So that is the new design
system, but I wanna come back to a thing I mentioned at the
top to the smoothness thing.

Android has a, a reputation that the
only way to make it smooth and good-looking is to
throw more powerful hardware at it with faster refresh
screens or more RAM or whatever. With Android 12, Google's promising that they're going to make
the animation smoother for everybody through
software improvements. So, we sat down with Sameer Samat, the VP of product management for
Android and Google play. And here's how he explains it. – So we've done a few
things to make things to make the system feel smooth. We've reduced lock
contention and key services, [Sameer] activity window
and package manager. What that really means is, there are multiple different parts of
the system trying to talk to the operating system at the same time. And that's when you see things jitter or genic, by smoothing a lot of that out and by reducing,
for example, the amount of time that Android system
server uses by 22%, actually. We've been able to make all the motion and animation feel super smooth. – All right, there are
a few other interesting features that are being announced today. So, there is a proper remote
control app for Android TV.

They're going to have car unlock
that works with NFC or UWB if your phone has it and that'll work with a
few different partners. And later this year, if
you have a Chromebook it's going to be able to
directly access the photo library on your Android phone. So next up is privacy updates. Google is putting privacy updates in every version of Android. That is great. And this year there really are a bunch.

The main thing that Google is trying to do this year is tamp
down on unfettered access to your location, your
camera and your microphone. So there are new indicators in the upper right-hand corner
when they're being accessed. And there are those new
buttons and quick settings that just fully turns off your
camera or your microphone. So, when you toggle them off, an app that looks your camera just gets a black, nothing. It thinks the camera's there, but really it's just getting nothing. There is also a new privacy dashboard that will show you how often those sensors have been accessed and by which apps. So you can view your data
from the past 24 hours in a pie chart or in a
timeline, and then turn off all the different
access stuff from there. Now for location, there is a
new kind of permission that you can grant to an app that's
approximate location instead of just precise location. So, say you've got
something like a weather app and you don't want it to
know your precise GPS pin but you want to know what
neighborhood you're in, you can give it an approximate location.

So let's all the privacy stuff
for sensors, but there's also this new part of the
operating system called the Android private compute core. Now you might think
it's a chip because core but it's not, instead it's,
it's like a sandbox part of the operating system for
machine learning things. It doesn't store data. It runs processes. – A good way to think
about it is, when you have these advanced technologies,
like for example speech recognition or
natural language processing, and they need access
to certain information. Another favorite example
of mine is smart reply. [Sameer] Awesome feature,
looks at your notifications your chat notifications,
and suggests replies based on a speech and language model.

All of that runs on device
in private compute core. – From my perspective, basically
what all that means is that if Google wants Android to be
able to do something with AI that you might think is creepy, now they can put all of
those processes in a box and limit all communication
into and out of that box and everything in the box
can't access the network and it's only accessible via limited API. So, that all seems great
but is it more secure? We'll see. So that's all the privacy
stuff that Google wants to talk about but, there is another
kind of privacy that Google really isn't keen
on discussing that much. And that is app tracking for ads. Now, there have been rumors
that Google would follow Apple and limit some kind of app
tracking for things like ads but, Google also makes
all of its money on ads.

So – Taking a step back on this one, there's obviously a lot changing
in the, in the ecosystem. One thing about Google is
that, it is a platform company. It's also a company that is
deep in the advertising space. So we're thinking, very deeply about how we should evolve
the advertising ecosystem. You've seen what we're doing on Chrome. [Sameer] From our standpoint on Android, we don't have anything
to announce at the moment but we are taking a position that privacy and advertising don't need
to be directly opposed with each other, [Sameer] that we don't believe is healthy for the overall ecosystem as a company.

So we're thinking about that working with our developer partners and we'll be sharing more later this year. – All right, well, stay tuned for news from Google on that later. And speaking of later, when are you gonna be
able to get Android 12 on your Android phone? Well, do you have a Pixel? Because then the answer is easy. You're going to get it this fall. Do you not have a Pixel?
Well, then the answer is later. Google says that the speed by which companies are
updating their phones to the latest version of
Android has improved by 30% but still, other manufacturers besides Google just take awhile to get the latest version of Android on their phones. That's just how Android works. Alright. That's Android 12, a huge redesign that adds some consistency and coherency with big buttons,
big sliders, big everything! There's more theming options. There's a bunch of privacy indicators.

There's a bunch of stuff that they put in the developer betas that
I haven't even covered here and a TV remote. This isn't the most massive release ever but you know what, it's enough. (transition sound) Hey everybody, thanks
so much for watching, right now it is the middle
of Google IO, which means that there is a lot going
on and we're going to have a lot more coverage of
everything Google has announced, and, you know, in general
it's just a big tech week. So I think there's gonna
be a couple more videos on the verge you're
gonna wanna check out….

As found on YouTube