Lucas Brenner » Articles » The Misuse of Digital Devices

Smartphones and computers are increasingly becoming general-purpose tools that we use in our free time as well as at work. While the purpose of a hammer or typewriter is clear, you can use your phone as an entertainment device, communication tool, map, translator and notepad, among other things.

In order to live a more balanced life, it makes sense to assign a clear purpose of existence to digital devices. These definitions don't have to be as narrow as those of a hammer or typewriter, but should clearly express whether a device is used for work or pleasure.

I recently got my girlfriend's old iPad, which I will use in my spare time to watch videos and make video calls. I won't be working on the iPad: no calendar, no reminders, no email.

On my computer I will do university related things instead. That's why the above features like email are enabled there. This doesn't mean that I won't watch some videos on my Mac from time to time, but basically, I want to separate these two aspects.

Conscious and separate use allows me to mentally switch between work and leisure mode better. When I close my laptop in the evening and pull out the iPad, I realize that work is now over. On the other hand, I (hopefully) don't procrastinate with YouTube videos on the laptop.

You don't necessarily need multiple devices to implement this strategy. On almost all laptops, you can create multiple user profiles. Some web browsers also allow you to do this and even block certain websites, depending on which profile you have selected.

Alternatively, you can assign “purposes” to certain times of the day. For example, you can specify that free time starts at 6 pm. This system is not quite as flexible as the different devices or user profiles, but it also fulfills the goal of acting more consciously.

What should be avoided at all costs is that digital devices mutate into one-size-fits-all solutions that no longer serve as a means to an end, but become an end in themselves. Those who use digital tools just to use them are not only unproductive, but can also develop dependencies. This can be prevented with the conscious use of devices for defined purposes.