You know it, I know it, too. Everyone knows that people nowadays spend way too much time looking at their phones. WhatsApp, Instagram, Online-Shopping. And when your phone’s dead? Oh gosh, please say it isn’t so! What the heck should I do now? Talk to real people? Desperation.
Offtime, a german start-up based in Berlin, created their concept based on people’s online-addiction. It’s an app for people who have lost self-control of their daily digital usage. It collects data from your phone, tells you how many times you’ve opened it, and for how long. After a certain amount of time, an alarm rings, telling you to look at something different for a change. In order to combat known distractions, you can tell the app when it should block certain things. For example, if you’re spending time with your friends on Friday night, you can tell Offtime to stop phone calls from the office, from your mom or girlfriend/boyfriend for the next 3 hours.
Apparently, lots of digital natives are in need of an application that regulates consumption for them, a THING that pushes them towards better behaviour in and around the cyberworld. Like a mom who tells you when to stop picking your nose, or a teacher, who tells you to stop chewing your nails, some need a digital manager who regulates our digital behaviour. Are we really losing our self-control?
Offtime was voted best app 2014, so yes, we must be losing the battle of self-control. As an online editor and assistant social media manager, I also spend a lot of time looking at my phone – even in my free time. Especially now, that I’m in Berlin and nearly 1000 kilometers away from my friends and Family. If I want to take a time off from my devices, there’s always someone in Switzerland asking: «Hey, wait a minute. What do you mean with ‘I’m not available?’» You’re right. How absurd is that, being without your phone for once – crazy!
Do I have a smartphone problem?
I would never say I’m addicted to my phone. But some (crappy) Online-Tests actually think I am. Do you take your phone out every time you’re bored? Check. Do you often feel or hear your phone vibrating, even if it doesn’t? Check. Do you leave it on the table, even if you’re out with friends? Double check. It seems I must acknowledge my digital addiction as I look at my phone to download my digital-mama. Let’s see what Offtime can do for me.
For CHF 3, the App provides me my digital assistant. After a few clicks, I realize I bought the Light Version. So I can just plan Offtime and see my phone activities during the day. The concept of taking Offtime makes no sense to me (Or do I just not get it?) – I could also turn my phone to flight mode, which would basically be the same. So I plan my Offtime for the evening I’m going to spend with my friends. First step: Tell my cyber friends goodbye, second step: plan my time off – in this case, from 19:00 – 21:00. (Yes, two hours. Don’t judge.)
My first try doesn’t work. I was stuck in my office and had to postpone my dinner.
So second try: 20:30 – 22:30. At 20:33, I got a notification: You’re Offtime has started right now. «Yay, that’s exciting!», I thought.
I’m scared of you, Offtime
Half an hour later I already forgot about my Offtime. I grabbed my phone and opened it. Oops! The phone vibrates and a cautionary message pops up: «Hey! That’s not the way you wanted to spend your Offtime, right?» Wow. Someone’s angry. During the next one and a half hours, it doesn’t get better. I know it sounds like I’m a real addict, but I HAD TO use my phone. We were trying to make a beautiful, glittery, soft slime-thing that you can knead to reduce stress. It looks beautiful on the diy-tutorial! But instead of every girl’s dream, the result was an ugly chunk of I-don’t-know-what, a disgusting mix of mozzarella and barf. I had to film that and I opened my camera several times. Offtime was not amused.
I suddenly felt some kind of respect for the app and didn’t want to dissapoint it. So I didn’t touch my phone while my two friends stared hypnotically at theirs. Instead, I danced. And it’s been a long time since I danced in a living room. I almost had fun!
After 2 hours, I felt a little less stressed. I was looking at my phone and I didn’t feel the urge to open it. I was glad, too, that it didn’t «yell» at me anymore.
The Light Version makes sense if you want to check your daily usage and take planned Offtimes. I’m still not a huge fan of the idea of having a virtual mom controlling my usage, but it’s not altogether a bad thing.
In the spirit of (re)education, let’s grade the results the german way: (1 perfect, 6 really bad)
Mark for me: 4
Mark for Offtime: 2