Breakfree has grown up

The launch of SPACE is now only days away, and we thought that some of you existing Breakfree users might be interested to know exactly what is changing.  So here you go:

So what’s changed?

We’ve taken the best parts of Breakfree, added some new features (designed using the principles of digital behaviour change) and repackaged them in a simpler, more beautiful user experience.  We’ve made changes in four key areas:  

A personalised experience:

We know that everyone uses their phone in different ways.  What’s unhealthy for one person may be OK for another.  It’s how your phone makes you feel that’s important.  As such, we’ve introduced a sign-up questionnaire which encourages people to consider their habits and then assigns them a persona.  We use this persona to (a) set goals for the user and (b) to structure our timely notifications.  People can also adjust their goals if they’d like to set their own targets i.e. using their phone less than an hour a day.  

Gamification:

It takes a while to change a habit, so SPACE is structured over a 60 day program.  Over the 60 days you can look back to see the progress you have made.  At the same time, you’re building a beautiful galaxy on the app home screen by collecting achievements each time you hit one of your goals.

Social:

Maybe you are sick of your colleagues being on their phone during meetings?  Or perhaps you’d like to set some new habits at home with your family?  We know that reciprocity increases the chance of us achieving our goals and changing behaviour. That’s why we’ve added in a feature where you can view the results of friends and encourage each other’s progress.  When you upgrade to SPACE Pro you can invite up to four other people to join your SPACE family.  

The experience:

Our lives are already too cluttered, particularly our digital lives.  That’s why we’ve made sure that SPACE is designed to show you what you need to know, simply and easily, so that you can get off your phone and back to the real world.  It’s also the reason why we’ve removed all advertising, and stripped back our notifications (making them less intrusive and more positive) to gently nudge positive behaviour change over time.  

Let us know your thoughts!  

 

Left Holding the Smartphone

When did you first realise that perhaps you were using your phone in a way that wasn’t benefiting your life?  

My wake up call was when, as a new mum, I caught myself looking at photos of my daughter on my phone, while breastfeeding her.  I realised these precious moments were passing me by because I was drawn to my screen.  The best image of her was right there, in my arms, and I was missing it.

I’ve observed my friends as more of them enter the rollercoaster of motherhood and often think about how their phone use might be changing, whether their habits are helping them through these difficult times, or not.  On the one hand, our phones have never been more useful - we can use them to time feeds, to monitor our babies as they sleep, to stay connected during an otherwise isolating time, and of course, to take snaps of those oh so precious moments.  

But at the same time, for many of us, phones become more pervasive than ever. Boredom and fatigue pull us to our phones.  We while away the time as our babies sleep or suckle, scrolling through news feeds, refreshing Instagram, trying to respond to messages that come flooding, and googling for the 100th time exactly how long our baby’s naps should be, and whether or not they may die from the pink dot on the end of their little finger.  It has become increasingly apparent to me that this type of phone use does not help in those early days of motherhood.  

My best friend, an avid Instagrammer, summed it up perfectly.  After a few days of not much sleep, she was quite fairly feeling less than her best.  Scrolling through social media, she was torturing herself with images of ‘perfect mums’ with similar aged babies, sipping lattes in sun-drenched cafes, blow-dried hair, flat bellies.   It took some effort to remind her that she was also going to cafes, where a strategically applied filter on a photo would give the same look - but by then her mood was already down.  

Our recommendation - stay vigilant at this time of life change and stay conscious of how you are using your phone.  If you need the ultimate motivator, think of the rate at which your child is learning right now.  What are you teaching them if you are looking at a screen and not at them? More on family to come, but for now, to all you new time mum’s out there…..what can you do?

  1. Find alternative ways to fill your downtime.  Get into podcasts, learn a language, or build out your book supply.

  2. Be organised with your time.  Find some specific slots each day to respond to messages and social media.  Try to align these with your baby’s schedule - maybe during their morning nap time?

  3. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.  How are you feeling?  Is the internet really the right place to look for an answer to your problem?  Will visiting Facebook and seeing others having more fun really make you feel better right now?

  4. Leave your phone at home - Take your baby out, just you and them.  Go for a walk.  Sit and stare into space if you have to.  Be present with your child and make memories just for you and them.  

  5. Switch off early - even if there is not much distinction between night and day, there can be for your phone.  Think about switching off at a similar time each day - switch to airplane mode, and disconnect from the outside world.  Everything can wait and you need that offtime.    

With baby number two soon to arrive, these reminders are going to be up on my fridge.  I don’t want to miss those moments this time round.  I’m also sick of scrolling through forums to try and work out exactly when my delivery date will be.  Amazingly enough, Google has no answer for that.  

 

I'm not an addict, baby.

No, you’re probably not. Digital addiction is a real condition, but it’s at the ‘pointy-end’ of the triangle. You can have a problematic relationship with your phone without it being a full blown addiction.

The thing is, we never know when we’re going to get that satisfying (or worrying) email, alert or notification, so even if we have alerts turned off, we are continually checking, just in case. We’ve inadvertently programmed our brains to seek that tiny hit of dopamine that we get when someone likes our tweet, or responds to our message.

Nutritious, and delicious.

One of the ways we like to think about using our phones (and technology in general), is to make sure that it’s 'nutritious’. Simply put, you can spend hours on your phone looking at clickbait and puppies, trawling Instagram and sending Snapchats, which will reinforce the habit of negative phone use. Or, you can put your phone to work for you, and make conscious decisions to consume the more nutritious side of what’s available online.

Say what?

In the UK the average adult spends an entire day a week actively online. More than half describe themselves as being “hooked” on their connected devices. Even more amazing, a study at Nottingham Trent Uni found that people are checking their phones, on average, an incredible 200 times a day - that’s once every 6.5mins. The same study found that one in four people spent more time online than they did asleep!

Smartphones are, by design, a place of constant interruption and distraction. Even while I’m writing this my phone is sitting next to me, daring me to pick it up and check Pinterest

Yeah, but, so what?  

Does it really matter if we’re stuck to our phones all the time? It might be a tad anti-social, but if that’s how we choose to spend our time, isn’t that okay? Well, maybe not. Our constant connectivity is having a pretty major impact on our psychology, our social lives and our sleep. We’re losing the ability to concentrate, to remember what we need to do, and to stop procrastinating. We’re also becoming more narcissistic, and losing connections with our family, friends and community. And, to top it all off, we’re destroying our own sleep. Using phones right before going to sleep delays and reduces the amount of REM sleep (the refreshing, revitalising part of sleep), and leaves us tired and groggy in the morning.

Cold turkey?

We’re not saying that you need to disconnect completely. Our phones and our connectivity obviously provide some very cool ways to be informed, connected and entertained. It’s more like going on a digital diet – reducing the number of times we consume certain services each day, and thinking about the nutritional value of those digital snacks, and moderating the ones that aren’t so good for us.

Where it all began (dug from the archives of April 2015)

It’s the 21st April 2015 and Sydney is facing another night of cyclonic weather coupled with violent seas.  An amusing post by the Bureau of Meteorology warned would-be ocean swimmers of dangerous conditions.  Given that on most beaches the sand is traveling horizontally at 55mph and the swell is so angry it starts breaking close to the horizon, I doubt many of sane-mind will be tempted for a dip.

Whilst I may mourn the loss of a morning splash, I love stormy weather and am more than a little excited.  It’s a different kind of sensation to when we were children.   Indeed, my best childhood memories were formed during the storms of 1989: candlelit in front of an openfire, as my mother dotingly warmed the water for our bath.  But this is different. Why? Because not only does the storm bring a novelty ‘disaster mode’ (and accompanying imperative for candles) but because, in approximately 2 hours, my phone - the best charged of all my connected devices - will turn itself off.

I don’t know when our power will come back.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to use my phone again.

I am relieved.

Over the past months, maybe the past year, I have started to become increasingly concerned about my own, and others’, dependency on technology, specifically on staying connected. That is not to say technology is a bad thing.  To the contrary, society would never have advanced in the way that it has, with the positive developments in health, information sharing and communications (to name a few), which technology has enabled.

However, my concern is that we have become addicted to technology, particularly to being connected, in a way that is not constructive or healthy for ourselves, our relationships or the communities in which we belong.  We don’t make choices about how technology can help us, rather we blithely accept technology, 24/7, day-in, day-out, often without a blink or a wink of an eyelid.  We don’t think about how we’re using technology.  We don’t consciously connect.

I’m not alone with my concerns.  In the past few years there have been an increasing number of studies conducted specifically to understand how being connected is affecting our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  Over the coming weeks, I’m going to be looking at this research and dialing down the science to understand exactly what we are doing to ourselves, just to stay online.

My goal?  By sharing the complete picture, my hope is that more people might sit-up to the impact of connectivity on our bodies, minds, children and society at large.  With information, we are empowered to make choices about how we conduct our lives.  We might start to become more mindful of how we use technology.  We might start to consciously connect.