Yes, cell phones can be distractions in school, at work, and elsewhere, and one solution could be cell phone book clubs that encouraged the young and their parents to associate the phones with ereading and other good stuff.
But at least a partial remedy is already at hand. And that is for people just to swipe down on their Android screens and go into the airplane mode, which cuts off network connections needed for Facebook and the rest. On the latest iPhones, anyway, you can swipe up from the bottom.
Mind you, the existing airplane mode is not a complete solution. I myself would like to be able to easily choose a number of variants, targeted at different sites, different apps and so on. That also seems to be the sentiment of Walt Mossberg, the former Wall Street Journal tech columnist who is now editor at large of Recode and executive editor of The Verge.
In The tyranny of messaging and notifications in The Verge, he tells how all those notifications from social media programs and others can actually make the new forms of communications less efficient in the end than old-fashioned email.
As he sees it, the “big fix” is “probably up to the makers of the operating system platforms. They permit and control the notifications, at the least. They could create more and better user tailoring and learning that could be shared by all messaging services. But the problem, of course, is that the two big mobile OS makers, Apple and Google, are also deeply enmeshed in the messaging wars.” Exactly. If we need laws to force vendors to be more respectful of our time and concentration, whether for work, school other elsewhere, then so be it.
I myself am pretty good at tuning out notifications (with the exceptions of those associated with IMs from TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows or Associate Editor Paul Mackintosh—not a problem, since this goes with the territory of publishing TeleRead). I can still focus on my writing. But not everyone is the same way.
Whether through proactive industry action or law, we need to end the tyranny about which Mossberg so correctly complains.
Related: Some here-and-now solutions from PC World.