The Ease and Availability of Media
Media is everywhere now because we’re smack in the middle of the information age. It’s new and fresh but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. The frictionless design of how we consume content has more added negatives than positives. There’s no restriction, no guidance, and worst of all we’re blinded to the negatives because we think no harm can come from FREE content.
According to a study by Dan Ariely, the option of paying nothing affects our decision making. He calls it the zero-price effect: we think there’s no downside to “free”. In his experiment, between the option of Hershey’s for free and a truffle for 25 cents, 90% chose the free Hershey’s. However, when the Hershey’s was 1 cent and the truffle was 26 cents 40% chose the truffle and 40% chose Hershey’s.
The notion of free content hugely affects how we consume content. As Ariely puts it “FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.” Maybe a little friction or inconvenience will reveal the reality of its value.
The Science of Environment Design
Willpower is overrated. Your environment matters more. We tend to trust too much in our innate power to do things or in immense focus to make things happen. This is all good but we can make things easier if we move smarter. According to this study that tested people’s will power, they discovered that willpower draws on a limited stock of energy. It’s like a muscle you can tire out.
Design your environment to leverage your willpower. The environment you surround yourself with determines the default actions that you take daily. What does this mean? You can design your environment to give of the cues you want. Digital Barriers can go either way, you could put them to discourage bad behaviors or remove them to encourage good ones.
“When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self- control it turns out those individuals are all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic power and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.” – James Clear
It’s choice architecture. Design your environment to guide your choice in every action and become an artist of life.
The Value of Friction
We do or don’t do things based on the friction between us and that activity. When it comes to media consumption and technology there are benefits of that added friction. The worst thing to do is consume anything just because it’s there. Digital barriers help us in thoughtful and intentional usage. That added layer of inconvenience can give us just enough time to reconsider the action.
Your mind is navigating your physical and digital space so organize it wisely. Friction allows for intention and introspection about our use of these mediums.
Examples of Easy Media Consumption
- Reading endless threads and tweetstorms on Twitter
- Watching more videos with YouTube’s “Up Next” feature
- Avoiding boredom ( endless entertainment on the phone)
- Communication ( texting )
- Scrolling through Instagram’s endless explore page
Practical Tips for Putting up Digital Barriers
- Reduce mindless scrolling: I don’t know about you but if I see the Instagram app on my phone I’ll open it patronizing myself that I only want to keep updated with Instagram stories. It’s just there, so I respond. I’m simply reacting to my environment. Increase with digital barriers focus and intentionality by :
- Hiding your apps from Home Screen
- Logging out of the apps
- Deleting the apps
- Using the Forest app to focus
Stop checking your phone the first thing in the morning: This was a recurring problem for me. You can remove this hurdle from your environment by moving your phone away from the bed to the other side of the room or another room entirely. That way when you wake up, you won’t have to a chance to check it.
Stop checking your phone last thing at night: you can schedule an activity one hour before you go to bed to curb this habit. You could read a book, journal, or start a new hobby. You can get your mind stimulated without using technology.
Apps and Chrome Extensions
- Scroll Stop