Digital Health

A new poster has appeared in the kitchen area at work.

According to this poster, people under 16 are spending 4 hours a day on their phones, people over 16 are spending 3 hours and 45 minutes. These figures seem low to me, but that’s beside the point. The point of the poster is that this is causing problems with people’s necks, backs, eyes and other things. It then goes on to give some simple stretching exercises and tips that can help alleviate these problems. Which seems like a very good thing.

But it seems disingenuous when you consider that I work for a telecoms company. A company that has a vested interest in people using their phones a lot.

There seems to be a trend for companies doing this sort of thing at the moment; Facebook launching studies about the risks of social media use, Apple and Google creating tools to help you track and manage the time you spend using their devices. It all seems… well, I’m not sure what word describes it best, but it reminds me that for years it was scientists funded by big tobacco who were saying there were no dangers to smoking, that it is the dairy industry that says adult humans should be drinking milk.

Although I do appreciate that technology companies are making this effort to help people manage their device use, part of me thinks that it would be better for everyone if Facebook (or whoever) just came right out and said, “We don’t care what this is doing to you, we just want you to spend more time on our service”. That would at least feel genuine.

The company I work for has put up a poster to help people deal with the problems that they have helped to create. An honest poster would probably say something more like “Stop spending 4 hours a day staring at your phone!” Then, if they genuinely cared, they would do something that might actually help people achieve that. As it currently stands they are doing the technological equivalent of getting people hooked on smoking and then telling them to open a window when they do it so their house doesn’t smell.

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