Addicted to your smartphone? Technology is trying to help

A tech startup wants you to put down your smartphone.

Yondr, which makes phone pouches that close with a proprietary lock, has a simple goal — to create “phone-free spaces” and help combat an increasingly hyperconnected world. In the worst cases, that constantly connected feeling can lead to smartphone addiction.

The technology Yondr uses is relatively simple and straightforward. When you enter an event that’s phone-free, your phone is placed in a Yondr case. The case will then lock. To use your phone again, you step outside the event area and tap it on any unlocking base.

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Yondr points to phone-free concerts as a good example. “Artists are uninhibited. The audience is present. Everyone is swept up into a shared mood,” Yondr wrote on its website.

Whether intentional or not, Yondr is reminiscent of the Neo-Luddism movement, a group that resisted modern technology that came into being in the 1990s.

"20th century citizens – activists, workers, neighbors, social critics, and scholars – who question the predominant modern worldview, which preaches that unbridled technology represents progress," according to a book titled “Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto,” written by author and activist Chellis Glendinning in 1990. 

Glendinning went on to note that “Neo-Luddites are not anti-technology," but rather they oppose "the kinds of technologies that are, at root, destructive of human lives and communities."

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Are smartphones bad for you?

Manifestos aside, there is a growing body of evidence that increased smartphone use can make you less happy. 

"While previous research has shown that psychological well-being has risen in adolescents during the last four decades of the previous century, more recent research has suggested that this trend is reversing, possibly due to the influence of smartphones and other digital media," according to a blog post last month on Psychology Today's website.

But not everyone is convinced Yondr is the way to go.

“It's like locking your liquor in a closet to keep yourself from drinking — while you keep the key,” Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told Fox News.

Kay added: “Using psychological tricks to keep yourself from overusing technology is pretty pathetic, but it does illustrate what we've come to.”

Yondr did not respond to a request for comment.

The problem is that smartphones are designed to be addictive. For better or worse, that’s how companies like Apple, Facebook and Google became so big and successful.

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“The designers of technology explicitly made their devices/services/software addictive because that is a great business model,” Kay said. “Marketing expense is minimal once the user is hooked. In fact, addictive drugs and technology are practically the only domains where we call customers 'users'.”

Ultimately, like any addiction, users must find their own path for putting down the smartphone.

“So, it's up to the users to wean themselves of their addiction, whether through artificial gamesmanship, via some kind of group or individual therapy, or by just putting the freakin' thing down,” Kay added.