JOMO and smartphone intent destruction

i thought i'd flag a new piece of research done by the android UX research team (summarized in this blog post)

essentially the gist is that even google is coming around to the idea that smartphone / mobile addiction is a problem and they are studying the different approaches people are taking to get off their devices (what they're coining JOMO - the joy of missing out). i would even go further and suggest that smartphones are responsible for something far more problematic for productivity, both on a personal and system-level, intent destruction. we all are familiar with taking out our phones to accomplish a specific task, only to find ourselves scrolling through a self-esteem destroying feed minutes later.

why is this relevant for us in the tech community, in particular investors? well, i expect that as awareness and acceptance of this problem increases, apps will either be policed or begin to self-police. hopefully the yardsticks will change, and successful apps might start measuring their health not based on "user engagement", but user satisfaction or some measure of the quality or their contentment with their time spent. (see excerpt from paper below on reconsidering success metrics)

it's also relevant for us because governments have already shown their willingness to come in with a heavy-hand when they perceive the problem as being out of control. the chinese government's crackdown on teenage gaming addiction has contributed to a $200B loss to tencent's market cap since Jan.

i also think it's important we think about this as we invest in next-generation's winners. whether we feel it in our selves, our families or our friends, i do feel like technology that distracts rather than enables may turn out to be short-term profitable but ultimately long-term problematic

some great product and measurement thoughts from the paper:

Reconsider Success Metrics

"We feel that the technology industry’s focus on engagement metrics is core to this attention crisis that users are facing. The more that businesses are incentivized to increase user engagement, as measured through frequency and duration of use, the more it feeds the competition for users’ attention. Hakansson and Sengers [12] described user attention as a commodity sold to advertisers and stressed the importance of seeing the user as a non-consumer. Engagement metrics alone do not account for user satisfaction [2]; even when users enjoy an app, they can experience frustration and guilt from inability to cease engagement [26]. It’s important to consider alternative metrics to indicate success, relating to user satisfaction and quality of time spent."

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