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Progress, not perfection: How to train your brain to focus away from your cell phone

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By Jason Plotch

Jason Plotch, Co-founder, Hatch

There has been quite a bit of buzz over the past couple of years about tech addiction and what it is doing to the youth of today worldwide. There are countless articles and blogs suggesting that kids who are growing up with social media will have fewer real life relationships as their brains become increasingly addicted to a virtual world where they spend most of their life glued to their screens. Even the tech giants are starting to recognize the troubling effects of too much screen time.

Instagram is allowing users to limit their time in the app and Apple launched ‘Screen Time,’ where users can view a daily breakdown of how much time they are spending on their phones. Where this all gets tricky however is that cell phones and technology are not like drugs and alcohol. If you have a drinking problem, most professionals would suggest abstinence is the best solution. Millions of people swear by the solution of completely eliminating alcohol from their life. But most of us can’t do this with technology and the vast majority of us would never want to.

So what is the answer? Are we all doomed to spend a life staring down at our screens and becoming social media zombies? Are the days of enjoying quality time with friends and family without incessantly checking our devices a thing of the past? This is where Hatch’s mission of ‘Progress not Perfection,’ comes into play.

First, it is important to understand why we are so addicted to our devices. This is by no means an accident. Countless resources have been used by giant corporations to keep us addicted to our phones. A popular trick used by many app developers (including Facebook, Snap, and Google) to keep you hooked are called intermittent rewards. This is the same trick that casinos use to keep you sitting at a slot machine for hours on end. It is especially addictive for teenagers.

What is an intermittent reward? Think about the last time you made a post on Facebook or Instagram. For the following hour or so, did you find yourself checking your phone more often to see who liked your post, how many likes you were accumulating, and what people were commenting? The answer is more than likely ‘yes.’ The reason? Each time you make share a social media post the algorithms are going to make sure that different people see your post and therefore the results will always be different. Sometimes you might get 100 or more likes and other times you might get only 25. This is the same as pulling the lever on a slot machine. While there are many factors that go into the success, or lack thereof, of each post, the fact that the results are always different is what your brain becomes addicted to.

So what’s the solution?

At Hatch we have created gamified focus software which actually trains your brain to become less impulsive and relieves much of the need the constantly check your phone when it is time to focus away from your device. This allows you to stay focused longer while you do things like read, write, or just take a break from all of the noise.

How does it work?

Hatch works like a mental speed bump which gives your brain time to pause and say “Do I really need to check my phone right now? The animation team, headed up by Julie Velarde (Nickelodeon), has created an entire world of creatures which are here to keep you focused. Simply set the time you need to stay focused and your unhatched egg will appear on your screen. This is where it gets fun.

If you leave Hatch for any reason, your egg will be incinerated into a black hole. If you can stay focused for the entire duration of the session, you will hatch a fun digital friend to collect in your zoo.

Our phones aren’t going to go away and we wouldn’t want them to anyway. There is so much good in the little devices which we carry with us everywhere. We can stay connected with friends and family in ways that we previously thought impossible. We have the answer to almost every question at our fingertips. Just remember, there is a big beautiful world out there which exists away from our screens. Set aside time every day when you can unplug from your device. You should start to feel less anxious, sleep better, and appreciate the quality time spent with the people you love. What could be better than having the best of both worlds?

(The author is the Co-founder, Hatch)

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