Students develop anti-smartphone app to gamify the challenge of phone addiction

Tock app phone addiction
Video screen capture Rachel Samples

Does it bug you when your friends can't take their eyes off of their smartphone long enough to have a conversation with you? Do you often wish you could have a smartphone intervention for a family member or colleague? Do you look up from your phone only to see the rest of the room all staring at their phones?

You're definitely not alone. One of the common postures in the so-called civilized world is that of the phone addicted, with their head bowed toward the device, thumbs hovering over the keyboard, just waiting for one more email or one more funny picture or one more text message to arrive. And if you dare to make a comment to someone about their phone addiction, be prepared for the mother of all denials.

"I'm just chatting with my friends. I'm just checking an important email. I'm not addicted to my phone. I can give it up anytime."

One simple fix to this would be to exercise some self control, and to learn how to turn the phone off, or to put it away during "real life" events, but as with most addictions, the compulsion to do it is too strong to overcome any sort of social pressure. And because "everyone's doing it," it must be OK, right?

Two Syracuse University students, Rachel Samples and Jacquie Greco, saw how widespread phone addiction was among their fellow students, and realized that they too were prone to being addicted to the social crutch of their smartphone. So they decided to do something about it, as part of a new media entrepreneurship class, and what they're developing aims to gamify the process of stepping away and disengaging from the "virtual phone world."

Their Tock app is referred to as an "anti-social mobile application" that can help the phone addicted to actually engage in face-to-face interactions during social gatherings, instead of being glued to their smartphone screens.

"Tock facilitates face-to-face contact by making a game out of who can stay away from their phone the longest. When Tock is downloaded, users create a Tock profile, which syncs information from various social media profiles. Once a user creates their Tock profile, they can invite their friends to Tock.

When two or more users Tock, they agree upon a certain amount of time they must stay away from their phones, and whoever swipes in first loses. The winner then has points added to their profile, which can be redeemed for real-life rewards." - The Daily Orange

The Tock concept was a winner in Syracuse University's Fast Forward competition, as well as the Raymond von Dran IDEA Awards, and the team, which was named Rookie of the Year at the New York Business Plan Competition, hopes to launch the app this summer. Interested users can stay in the loop on this app's development on the Tock Facebook page or Twitter account.

What do you think about using an app to keep people from always using apps? Would this help you or someone you know to put down their phone and and make eye contact and engage in conversations more often? Or would it be more effective to just hide their phone while they're with you?

Students develop anti-smartphone app to gamify the challenge of phone addiction
An anti-smartphone app might seem like an oxymoron, but the app might also help those who can't help themselves from constantly checking their phone.

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