There has been a lot of talk recently about the generation of ‘digital overload‘ and the need for an intermittent ‘digital detox’ to ensure that employee productivity – both in the office and at home – isn’t impacted by a saturation of digital devices and content.
The Light Phone is an invention which works to supplement current mobile devices and offer individuals a way to disconnect every now and then, without leaving behind the essence of the mobile phone itself, that is, the ability to call and communicate when necessary. This is a product which offers a glimpse into the future of technology and Kensington spoke to founders Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang to see how and why this product came out.
Here’s what they had to say…
Today’s connected world has its disadvantages, with “digital overload” being one of them. Is this what inspired you to make The Light Phone?
“Digital overload” or as I like to call it, finding ourselves habitually overwhelmed, was a big inspiration for the Light Phone. As a catalyst, we joined an incubator program specifically for designers that was created by Google. In the program we would meet with founders, investors, and technology influencers and were learning on a deeper level how and why products were being built. They were showing us how they engineered apps and products to keep users engaged by using our vulnerabilities against us. The metric for success of such products was often, “how many hours a day does the user spend with your product?” It’s no wonder that we experience digital overload if these are the products being built (and funded). We couldn’t help but feel like the last thing the world needed was another app. We were forgetting the importance of quality time with others, in solitude, boredom, focus, and just being present in general. Coming from an art background, these were the things that I valued most, the things that allowed me to truly appreciate life and experience genuine happiness. We wanted to build something different, something that encouraged us to step away from the internet, to be intentional with our time and attention, because at the end of the day those are the absolute most important things we have and too often we take them for granted and give them away to some digital product without fully realizing.
Can you explain how it works?
The Light Phone is credit card-sized cell phone that only makes phone calls. It is your phone away from phone. It uses its own SIM card and is not limited to the parameters of a tethered device, your smartphone can be 3,000 miles away or completely off and the Light Phone will still work. Our software platform, accessed via an app on your smartphone, makes it so that the Light Phone always uses your primary phone number, both incoming and outgoing calls. You can easily setup your device, storing up to 10 speed dials. The SIM card is managed through the same app and is how you pay for and manage your usage/billing of the Light Phone. The goal was to make keeping it connected as affordable as possible since the The Light Phone was designed to be used as little as possible. When you are ready to “go light’ you simply turn on call forwarding through the Light App and leave your smartphone behind. Bringing the Light Phone out with you, you will receive only the calls you want to receive and have the option to quickly call one of your 10 speed dials or dial out any number manually.
What are its advantages over wearables?
The Light Phone is not a wearable, it is a phone designed for a specific time in our lives. We have different shoes for different occassions, why is it that we have one giant computer phone that we bring with us everywhere? To the beach, on dinner dates and even to bed at night. The Light Phone is only phone designed to be used as a second phone. There are wearables that can make calls, sure, but that experience is vastly different than “going light”. They want you to stay as, if not more, connected as you are with your smartphone with a different and seemingly worse interface as it is always visible and on your mind. That is not going to give you a break from your smartphone, because you will be doing everything that you do on your smartphone – or more.
Do you think there’s been a shift in our relationship with technology in recent times? Are attitudes changing?
There have been many shifts in our relationship with technology over the years, and I think what we are feeling now is a craving for escape that comes with this [digital overload]. We are becoming exhausted, our digital lives are making us more anxious and not giving us the simple pleasures that we need from being present in our lives. Our feeds all are trying to sell us in one way or another constantly, it just isn’t a healthy relationship, even if it comes with some conveniences.
What are your thoughts on checking work emails while in holiday?
We would be happier if we didn’t do it. Have I done it, have we all done it? Most likely. What has helped me is just getting distracted by the real world around you. There is an initial anxiety with “going light”, pretty much all users have described this to us, but if you hold it out (and it isn’t that hard) you will get lost in your thoughts, your world, your conversations with friends or whatever your’e enjoying to do that the anxiety goes away and you actually forget there is an email to check. When you can cross over that anxiety is when you are able to experience a real relief and the effects of “going light” are felt. It is a great feeling.
And the worst instances of “digital overload” that you’ve come across?
My least favorite was always when it was unintentional or when I was procrastinating with it. Just sometimes getting a simple text might lead me to, without realizing, scrolling for 20 minutes. I snap out of what feels like a daze, not particularly happy or sad, just kind of tired, blank. It’s when I find myself pulling out my phone with no real purpose other than being a nervous habit. I’m sure this predates digital overload, but when I see people so worried about a digital persona it does make me quite sad.
How much do you think people can benefit from a digital detox?
I think the benefits come in a variety of degrees. There is an immediate pleasure in the present. There is the relief that you feel having returned to the digital world that you bring with you back. Then there is the long term effects of intentionally living your life the way that you really want, that aligns with the things that you feel the most passion for and that make you the most happy. Those effects, well, that’s the best part of living – unquantifiable.
Can taking proper breaks from technology actually make you more productive?
Yes, of course. Multitasking, which is how we tend to use technology, is a myth. It is addictive and exhausting and gives us the illusion of productivity, but it is really just glorified procrastination.
To those managing a team, or even a company, do you think digital detoxing should be encouraged? And if so, how would you recommend overcoming those who are skeptical?
I love the idea that teams or businesses should be encouraging some sort of detox. I like to think of it more as a balance than detox. It is not about one weekend away from technology healing you for months, it is about finding a healthy balance with technology that your practice everyday. If you are skeptical, give it a shot I say. What do you have to lose spending an afternoon away from email with someone you love? It does not have to be some crazy expensive trip that lasts 10 days in the middle of nowhere. As nice as that sounds, you can find a sustainable and meaningful balance in just spending a few hours a week intentionally “light”.
The concept of digital detox in relation to employee productivity is one which Kensington has particular interest in researching. If products such as the Light Phone encourage a more alert, less distracted IT Professional as a result of regular breaks from constant connection, it is definitely something that is going to be prominent in the future of technology.
Do you think this would encourage you to switch off on occasion? If you need any more information on encouraging employee productivity, both in the office and when working from home, get in touch with one of our expert team.
Head on over to LinkedIn to join in the conversation!