Airplane mode is not only to save but gain


On the phone there is a function called ‘airplane mode’ with an plane icon that will turn off all the internet and telephone signals. Usually people tell you to turn airplane mode on as one of the battery saving tips, and during the flight to prevent signals from interrupting the plane you are taking. This icon seems to be reducing and even preventing risks that can affect us (no battery, flight accident), but I realize that it does gain more than save.

Living in the smartphone age, we are now connecting to each other 24 hours a day, nonstop. The WiFi, 3G/LTE, bluetooth, handoff and airdrops etc. are all on. Notifications can be received anywhere and anytime. We have to check messages and news. Instead of focusing on our tasks and our dreams, we are always reminded, and even trained to check messages and news all the time. As a result, we forget what is the most important at that moment, and most of the time we are online.

I always ask myself if I need to be open and connected all the time, as I find that I can be exhausted after receiving so much information and checking new messages frequently. When new messages and feeds come, I really enjoy responding and reading it, resulting in losing time. When there are no messages, I can feel disappointed. Being online all the time is like when I am trapped in a room full of people you know.

While it’s enjoyable with others in a room, people still need to leave at least for a while for their own sake, especially for introverts who need to be being alone to regain energy. My situation is that I need to breathe, to find a place of solitude. Keeping mobile data on is of no difference when staying in a small room with the same people all the time.

An airplane mode is a ritual that when I turn on, I leave the room; when I turn off, hey I am back! Not only the battery can be saved, but also that most of my time can be better spent on what are important on me, rather than on Facebook and WhatsApp. Through the ritual of on and off, I can decide when to be on and off.

If you think telephone signal is still necessary, especially in case when your parents call you. Turning off ‘mobile data’ in settings can block all the social media, emails and messages in the period you demand for tranquility.

Some people can control themselves, but some people can’t. I am the one who really need a design to protect me from distraction. Sadly, convenience is usually the king of smartphone design. Designers claim that with that function you can be effortless on this and take so your time can be saved, but it is always the opposite as those products can make us obsessed into them, wasting a lot of time and energy after a long period. That’s why I urge for the design for avoiding distraction rather than convenience, like popping up notifications twice a day instead of immediately. Tristan Harris in TED invited us, as consumers, to call technology giants to protect us from distraction.







有些人當然不需要什麼設計或工具就能控制自己,但也有些人不能。我是一個十分需要不讓我分心的設計的人,但很可惜,「便利」已經主導了設計,很多設計都只是為了省時省力,結果就因如此,用多了,時間浪費了,精力不知不覺耗掉了,所以我一直希望將來的設計,與其為了方便,倒不如從避免分心上著手。Tristan Harris在TED演講中,帶領作為消費者的我們,要求科技生產商去回應我們的訴求:從設計去減低分心的機會。

(Written on iA Writer app which designs for focus on my own.)

(在一個避免分心的app:iA Writer上寫這篇文章。)

LifeAlvin Cheng