Life advice from Google?
“Don’t be evil”
Google’s original catchphrase from its code of conduct is probably one of the most well-known three word phrases in history. It was designed to sum up a simple philosophy where technology and devices would be used to improve our lives, rather than ruin them.
Unfortunately, the shine has somewhat come off Google in the years since. The tech giant has inserted itself into dozens of industries, shown a strong reluctance to pay tax, and gathered so much data that it is doubtful if any of us have as much privacy as we think. All of this was done in aid of making as much of the money in existence as they possibly could.
So when Google announced a new initiative this week aimed at making their technology less addictive, it was easy to be sceptical. After all, the company’s entire business model is predicated on getting us addicted to phones and apps so we give more money to Google.
However, look at the new proposals suggests that initial impressions may be a little harsh. Google’s claim that they are, “committed to giving everyone the tools they need to develop their own sense of digital wellbeing [,] so that life, not the technology in it, stays front and centre” does not seem quite as immediately ridiculous when you look at some of the most interesting features:
A feature of the next Android update which will silence your calls and notifications when the phone is flipped face down. This is a simple feature but arguably a genius one as it taps into something we all do automatically – put the phone down – in order to let us unplug for a while without having to go into the phone and find the right settings.
A simple change will allow you to turn off notifications for all non-essential emails, as defined by the user. By cutting down on the number of notifications there will be fewer reasons to keep checking your phone. Given that we all do this an average of 100 times a day, it seems like a good idea
Another remarkably simple feature of the next Android update which seems so obvious in hindsight. We have all at one point or another checked our phone before bed and accidentally spent hours looking into a screen from only a few centimetres away, damaging our eyesight and not allowing our brain to switch off. Wind Down will simply turn off all the colours on your home screen at bedtime in order to remove the addictive, video game-style aspect of phones and let you switch off more easily.
The video streaming service is a true behemoth of the online world. It is estimated that 150 million hours of media are watched on the service every day, meaning that we could probably all do with watching a little less. Now, there will be a new feature which will prompt us to take a break at regular intervals to give ourselves a rest.
This might be the most important change of all in the long run. It is not a secret that many phone apps and games are aimed squarely at getting children addicted, with the hope that they will spend money. Family Link aims to stop this by making it easier to manage the apps children use, keep track of their screen time, and find online content recommended by teachers as good for young people.
None of these new features are likely to change the world, but they can only be a good thing in the long run. The majority of us definitely spend too much time in front of screens – thanks in part to Google – so anything that can help with this is to be welcomed. It is not often this gets said, but Google seems to have done something which is good for everyone, and they’ve done it for free. Congratulations to Google on this achievement.