Many Americans find themselves bombarded by expert advice to limit their screen time and break their addictions to agenda accessories – including administration and clay this abstemiousness for the accouchement in their lives.

However, over 15 years of carefully celebratory people and talking with them about how they use abstruse tools, I’ve developed a more nuanced view: Whether a technology helps or hurts addition depends not just on the amount of time they spend with it but on how they use it.

I’ve found many people who have found impressively artistic ways to tailor the technologies they have to serve their values and claimed objectives, convalescent their relationships and even their health.

In my accessible book, “Left to Our Own Devices,” I acquaint readers to people who pushed articles beyond their advised purpose, creating their own off-label uses.

Some of them turned self-help products, like smart scales and mood apps, into mechanisms for deepening relationships; others used apps like Tinder, advised to spark interpersonal connection, as an affecting pickup – acquisition data to feel better about themselves after the hookup. And still others have pieced calm altered tools and technologies to suit their own needs.

Looking beyond the rules

A few years ago, for instance, my colleagues and I created an app to help people manage stress as part of a health technology analysis project. Psychotherapy and other mental health casework have commonly been offered as alone treatments, and so we accepted people would use our app on their own, when they were alone.

We put a great deal of effort into acceptable aloofness and instructed people who alternate in our analysis that the app was for their use only.

But many of the participants ended up bringing the app into their conversations with others. One woman used it with her son to action a heated altercation they had beforehand in the day. She sat down with him and calm explored the visuals in the app that represented stages of anger.

They followed the app’s cerebral analysis cues for cerebration about animosity and reactions – their own and each other’s. She shared it with him not as a flashy distraction, but as a bridge to help each accept the other’s perspectives and feelings.

The app was advised to help her change the way she anticipation about stress, but she also used it to abode the source of her stress – making the app more able by, in a assertive sense, misusing it.

New turns with accustomed devices

Another woman I spoke with took smart lights – the ones that can change color at the tap of a button in a smartphone app – far beyond their advised functions of convalescent decor and energy efficiency.

When she afflicted the color of the lights in the home she shared with her accomplice from white to red, it was a signal that she was upset and that they needed to talk. The light color became an alien symbol of the battle amid them and provided a new way to begin a difficult conversation.

Similarly artistic cerebration helped strengthen the relationships amid patients and a physician I interviewed. She accomplished primarily through telemedicine, affair with patients via a secure medical videoconferencing system. She was aware that concrete and affecting ambit could weaken a accord already abounding with acuteness and an alterity of power amid an expert and a patient.

So she experimented with the view her camera provided of her and her surroundings. First, she showed patients a view of just her face, in front of an direct white wall that appear annihilation about her.

Then she confused the camera to show more of her home, which of course appear more of herself. Patients could now see some of the art that she liked as well as elements of her home, which said article about her habits, values and personality.

This administration collapsed the arena field in some ways. As patients were aperture up themselves to her by anecdotic affection and the capacity of their lifestyle, they could see that she was not a lab-coat-clad expert arising directives from an alarming medical office – she was a real person living in an accustomed apartment.

This step toward advantage made it easier for patients to relate to her. She believes this is part of why her patients have bidding activity close to her and so much trust in her treatment. It was a small adjustment that brought greater affinity and affiliation to a technology often viewed as a poor backup for in-person meetings.

With accretion absorption to the furnishings of technologies, we should not only be anxious with their abeyant harms. As I’ve observed, experimenting with how – not just how much – we use technology might bare abrupt ways to make life better.

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