Tech that gives you your life back

I was listening to Fresh Air on my lunch break and at the end of the program they had a review of the new Apple watch. The tech contributer concluded that the main advantage to the watch was that it allowed you to do basic things like respond to texts (often with voice-to-text), without the distractions the rest of the phone had to offer. Checking a text on a smart-phone might lead to checking Twitter, or Facebook or Instagram or the like, but on the watch you just answer and then go on your merry way.

The watch’s limited capacity is a feature not a bug.

On the one hand I totally get this. I’m a smart phone resister, and have achieved the same lack of tech distractions as an Apple watch wearer by using an old sliding keyboard texting phone that has no games, no music and little memory for pictures. Basically it’s only good for talking and texting. The phone isn’t going to distract me because it can’t do that much.

But this is a little hypocritical, since I add distractions to just about every other device I own. Because I’m an engineer, I call this sort of thing “adding capabilities” or “testing the limits” but it’s basically the same thing as adding distractions. My device of choice is the laptop computer and/or the tablet. I have hundreds of programs (games) self-installed on all of my computers and tons of personal media. And I may not have apps for Facebook, Twitter and blogs, but I do have bookmarks on my browser. Probably several dozen on my Opera speed-dial alone.

I have a group of about 6-10 sites I check in rapid succession, on reflex, many times a day.

  • Facebook
  • WordPress
  • NPR
  • My Amazon Sales stats
  • GOG.com
  • Comixology
  • Netgalley
  • Wikipedia
  • And so on

The ways I combat distraction tend to be things like airplane mode and giving each device a wide range of capabilities but a specific function. My Kindle Fire can do a lot, but I mainly use it for reading comic books, checking my comic book lists against books in store to see what I need and already have, checking lists of eBooks against physical books, and some light e-mail. My on-the-go machines are geared to writing, blogging and research, and home computers are geared more to gaming and burning.

But I’m really not much better than the average smart-phone user. I stare at a laptop instead of down in my hand, but it’s basically the same impulse. Maybe there’s something to devices that try to get us to do only the things we need to do, leaving distractions for when we have the time to waste.

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