Designing for digital well-being

Smartphone attachment is so prevalent that the fear of being without a phone has a name: nomophobia, writes Elizabeth Churchill in Interactions. What can be done to manage such unhealthy attachments?

“Leaving the onus on individuals to manage their own traits, foibles, proclivities, and anxieties through acts of self-regulation is not good enough. If, as technology designers, we can make experiences compelling and potentially addictive, we can also design to avoid or reduce the triggers that underpin compulsive and addictive behaviors. We can design tools that are more attuned to a healthy brain and mind, and to healthy social engagements. […]

Digital well-being is something we need to work on collectively, not individually. It requires a mind-shift in how we think about what an appropriate technology environment is, and what a good engagement model is – and what are not good environment and engagement models. Critically, as with many HCI issues, this is not about technological fixes alone. There are known conflicts between current business drivers (e.g., maximize time on device/site, maximize clicks), user needs (e.g., maximize utility, minimize interruption), and ethical cultural/social needs (e.g., try to do the right thing). One of the key questions for us all is to address if and how these incentives could come into alignment.”