We Are All Out of Time!


By Samuel Greengard

Over the last few months, a handful of manufacturers have introduced smartwatches. At first glance, the idea of displaying (important?) information on our wrist—and extending the reach of a pocket-bound or purse-parked smartphone—is a good one.

Now we can be even more on top of things!

The irony is that the least important feature on a smartwatch is the time display. Who needs a nearly $300 smartwatch to tell time? A dumb watch or a smartphone handles that function just fine.

One useful benefit of a smartwatch is that it could lessen the widespread affliction of phantom ringing syndrome. That's the one where people think their phone is buzzing, and they check it only to find out that it's not doing anything. This device might also alleviate constant thumb scrolling, which is leading to a condition called texting thumb and other repetitive stress injuries.

That's the good news.

But there's a potential downside. All the information a smartwatch streams our way could pack even more pressure into our already overburdened, overscheduled days. The concept of receiving important alerts and notifications on the wrist is valid. The concept of receiving a constant stream of alerts—and probably a lot of spam and merchant promotions—is less appealing.

Worse, as we dive deeper into digital technology, we run the risk of becoming more enslaved and controlled by it. We all know people who respond to every text, email and call immediately: at lunch and dinner, at a meeting or even during sex.

Meanwhile, attention spans are growing shorter, and most of us are now in a perpetual state of hurry. We constantly rush to do the next thing and then the thing after that, with little or no patience for anything or anyone that blocks our path.

Adding another device doesn't necessarily make things simpler—even if it gives us the illusion that it is doing so. Operating, managing and recharging a growing army of tech devices is onerous. Download more apps, arrange the display, set up filters, fidget with phone settings, fix inevitable glitches and problems—just so you don't have to pull a phone out of your purse or pocket.

It's no wonder we're all out of time.