Not Nosy, Just Human

Ever sit somewhere and catch yourself staring intently at another person’s cell phone screen?

You’re not alone. So what is about other people’s screens that make them irresistible?

“Other people’s screens are windows into their lives, and brains, and relationships and work — into their politics, anxieties, failures and addictions. They tend to appear between one and three feet away from other people’s faces, depending.”

We used to not have as much access to other people’s screens as we do now. Home and office computers were more private than the now ubiquitous 5.5” screen everyone carries everywhere nowadays.

Munich researchers wanted to find out more about “shoulder surfing” in an effort to understand the security implications of having our lives exposed on small screens. So what did they find? The research suggested the majority of shoulder surfing was casual and opportunistic with survey respondents admitting they did it out of boredom and curiosity. In cases where there was malicious intent, “both users and observers expressed negative feelings in the respective situation, such as embarrassment and anger or guilt and unease.”

What were they looking at? Mostly text, and more specifically instant messaging, Facebook, email and news.

Observing shoulder surfers in NY can even tell how phone usage has changed since wifi was sporadically introduced. Gone are the days of CandyCrush. Today is all about long texts composed, then reworked and frantically sent when the signal appears, they are also selfies being retouched, or as the train transforms into an office, messages about the client. Other people’s screens can be used as warnings or endorsements. Whatever they contain, they are a reminder that we should all really just mind our business.

Why it’s hot:

As we design mobile experiences, should we keep in mind our second audience, the shoulder surfer?

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/style/why-you-cant-stop-looking-at-other-peoples-screens.html