Tech is turning us into a bunch of time wasters

Tash Whitmey is group CEO of Havas helia, and is obsessed with the power of data in creating human insights.

Some days I’m never off my phone. Working in digital, I could lie and say it’s all in the name of research. But who needs excuses when everyone’s glued to their phones regardless of job type, age or lifestyle?

Almost 50 per cent of us check our phones up to 50 times a day, according to a Deloitte Mobile Consumer report released this month. The study also showed half of us reach for our phones within minutes of waking up.

This collective technology addiction is contributing to the growing sense that we’re wasting our time – doing BuzzFeed quizzes or getting to the next level on Candy Crush when we could be doing something more edifying instead.

The Havas Worldwide Prosumer Report 2015, which surveyed 10,000 people in 28 markets around the world, found nearly six in 10 people believe their lives would be better if they were more productive – and around half blame themselves for frittering away untold hours.

In a way, we’re being cast adrift from our own lives. We’ve become alienated from nature and from our physical communities because our attention is captivated by our screens, not our surroundings. And who can blame us? Keeping in touch with people via Facebook is just so much easier than going to the effort of calling or, heaven forbid, making the effort to meet up in person.

Tech fatigue has escalated to such a degree that people have resorted to getting apps that shut down their phones for everything except emergencies or that nag them about how much time their wasting on their phones. There’s now a school in London that bans screens entirely – even when the children are at home.

Brands should avoid adding to this tech overload that is putting a barrier between people and the things they value most. Companies such as Toms, Patagonia and Hiut Denim have successfully shown that they are built on real values tied in to the real world.

To engage meaningfully with consumers, brands need to show a clear purpose that transcends the digital chatter. Otherwise, they risk being just another annoyance in an increasingly noisy and disruptive world.

Tash Whitmey is group CEO of Havas helia

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