Last month, a spoken word YouTube video entitled ‘Look Up’, which criticised online messaging over real life contact and self-image crafting (otherwise known as the tenets of social media) went viral. Putting aside the inevitable irony that a piece of content which highlights the more ludicrous aspects of social media found an audience on social media, ‘Look Up’ taps into a wider concern that the more technology empowers us to live out our lives online, the less inclined we will be to enjoy the real world.
Even certain media moguls agree. Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, recently insisted that his wedding to Derrence Washington be a social media-free zone, with all guests (a number of whom are socially active journalists and bloggers) required to check their smartphones at the door. Denton stated that he wanted the “full personal presence” of each of his and Washington’s guests for the duration of their special day: “You can tend to your virtual presence – and your Twitter or Instagram followers – the next day,” he told attendees.
If Denton’s request seems abnormal to you, then it might be time to check just how attached you are to your smartphone.
BreakFree is an app which claims to be able to measure your “social media addiction”. It does this by monitoring just how long people use apps for, how many times they unlock their phone, and the amount of time they spend on calls, and then using all of this data to calculate an “addiction score”. Users with a particularly high score will receive occasional nudges from the app, advising them to take a break.
While the app is free, a premium version can be purchased if you are keen to find out specifically which apps consume the most of your time. “We want to make people realise that human company is better than phone company,” says BreakFree founder Mrigaen Kapadia.
“It’s an interesting idea,” says Ben Woods at The Next Web, “providing an app – and therefore one more thing to keep tabs on – to encourage you to use your phone less. Surely, if it’s successful, BreakFree users will become decreasingly frequent users?”
BreakFree is currently available on Android, with an iOS version on the way.