How You Use Your Tools

It’s said a bad workman always blames his tools. An old saying yes, but it’s always clear when people feel responsible they look to shift the blame to other things. A faulty saw causing a wonky cut is one thing, but how about a smartphone ruining society?

It’s true that almost all the big players in mobile applications use some unsavoury tactics to keep you using them. Notifications, dark patterns and a number of dirty ticks all in the name of growth. Designed to get your data, spend your money or keep you engaged with whatever service it is that they are peddling. But here’s the thing, you still have a choice.

Think about this phone. You can use this cellphone to gossip. You can use this cellphone to tell lies. You can use this cellphone to tell some really great jokes. You can use this cellphone to expose corruption, inequality, bad behaviour. What’s important is that we actively think about how we use it, how it affects our lives and our societies, and learn from it. – Mike Pondsmith

Can you class a smartphone as a tool? It certainly helps you get things done. Helps you achieve the goals that you want it too. Stay connected, be productive or snap the photos you want to snap — but to be truly a tool, it shouldn’t require anything back from you.

My hammer doesn’t make a noise because I haven’t put many shelves up for the last few weeks. Outlook doesn’t pester me to send more emails. Tools ask nothing in return for their purpose. However, it’s really all about how you use the tool.

My iPhone doesn’t really ask much of me. I can choose to load apps onto it that allow me to communicate or I can load some that waste my time. That’s the choice we all can make, and some responsibility must lay at our feet. Even the apps that ‘waste our time’ are also tools to be used which ever way you see fit. Twitter enables real time communication to millions of people. Facebook has the best suit of communication apps we have ever seen, used for everything from peer support to psychiatry at a distance. Modern tools built from ones and zeros instead of wood and metal just need a little bit more moulding and a lot more will power.

With a little work we can choose to shape our tools to our own usage. Mediate the distractions they peddle and contain the downsides. Making the tools work for us as they should have done from the start.