Data and information

The “Digital Wellbeing” feature on my phone gives me a tonne of data.

I know how many minutes I spent on my phone yesterday. I also know which apps I spent most of that time on. Further, I can get a weekly report of my usage and compare it with prior weeks.

All of that is great data. However, if I want to reduce unhealthy phone usage, none of this data is useful information.

For instance, I value the time I use on calls with friends and family while using an app. The feature doesn’t permit me to exclude such usage from regular screen time. If I use a meditation app on my phone, there is no way for me to exclude its usage either. Further, I only get coarse data on the top 3 apps I have used. I also cannot flip between weeks and compare them, since the feature gives me data only for my current week.

Therefore, the feature gives me data, but no useful information. And since this data isn’t useful, it turns into mere distraction.

Information is data that gives me useful insights. We now live in times where capturing data is seen as valuable for its own sake. What we need to ask more often is how much of this data is useful information.

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