Technology

A Mindful Mobile OS — This Too Shall Grow

“At the end of an app session of 15 minutes or more, an actionable notification could ask you if this was time well spent.”

“Apple could aggregate data and show the average time people spend on any given app, and how well spent people report this time.”

I think this is a directionally good idea, but I wonder if the subjectivity of “time well spent” could make this metric not as meaningful as intended. Depending on who you are and what you want out of social media, time well spent on Twitter can look like:

  • Nourishing your relationships by catching up on what your closest friends are up to

  • Having a laugh by seeing the latest tech memes and shitposts

  • Educating yourself with a 50-tweet thread on the history of coffee

  • Getting tons of ego-boosting engagement

All of these are valid, and all of these are very different types of time well spent. An app such as 9GAG – covering memes and viral videos – would have a great rating by meme lovers, but some shouldn’t download it on that basis because it doesn’t fit their view of quality time.

Additionally, I wonder if a binary answer is the best way to represent the quality of time spent. Out of 30 minutes of browsing on any social app, I would find it difficult to say whether it was strictly either time well spent or time poorly spent. And what about the times that it started well, but the last 15 minutes were ugly-browsing, going down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos that felt like junk food, but because it was 1 am, that made it difficult to be mindful and to let go of the dopamine hits and go to sleep instead? For this reason, I think a 5-point scale would bring a more relevant and finely-tuned answer, and in turn lead to a more useful metric when deciding whether to install an app.

5. Regret tax

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