Apple's Tim Cook talks mental health and 'mindless scrolling'

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Mental health is a crisis, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared in an interview on a trip to New York, a discussion that covers the need for people to look after themselves, as well as Cook's own ways to unwind.

Cook paid a visit to New York in early October, using the time at one point to meet to mental health app Shine's co-founders Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey. As part of an interview centering on mental health, Cook used the conversation to promote the app, as well as expanding on the idea that people need to look after their mental health more.

On the importance of promoting Shine, Cook starts by pointing out the app had won in Apple's Best of the App Store awards in 2020. "And there probably wasn't a year that would have made them more essential," he told Bustle, with elements such as the murder of George Floyd and the pandemic "intersecting in such a way that no-one would have predicted."

Referring to how mental health "is a crisis" that has been "stigmatized so much," Cook praises Shine for "bringing together community and stitching together a number of different things that will make [change] systemic in nature instead of a slogan."

When asked if he talks about mental health as a leader at work, Cook admits he "always" talks about things that "gets me away from the stresses of the day." Cook's meditation is hiking. "It's the being out in nature and feeling so insignificant in the world, and a lot of the problems tend to seem a little smaller."

"You know, I don't have an S on my chest and a cape on my back. I suffer from the pandemic lows as much as everybody else does," he adds. "I know that I'm privileged in so many ways, but none of us are privileged to the point that mental health is not a key factor in life."

On technology's role in the world, and reports of how Facebook and Instagram affect teenagers and young adults, Cook refers to his belief that "technology should serve humanity and not the other way around." The worry of people overusing technology led to the development of Screen Time, but the duration is "just one element. It's also what you're doing."

"I've often worried about the endless scrolling, the surrounding yourself with negativity and so forth," the CEO states, with Shine being an app that instead tries to serve humanity.

"We want people to do things with their devices, like the photography exhibit [that he visited earlier that day] or connecting with family and friends with FaceTime," he offers. "Not endless mindless scrolling."

Cook himself admits that he has found himself in a spiral that he realized wasn't great. "Like many people, I found that when we deployed Screen Time, my estimate of what I was doing was different than the reality, and it did cause me to change. And I hope everybody goes through that process."

Turning to the growth of the App Store and exceeding the predictions of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, Cook says that Apple "does a fantastic job" of not living in a box when it comes to products, but it's tougher to estimate success.

"At that time, our gut was that eventually everyone would want a smartphone, but we did not envision the speed at which that would occur," he explains. "Because I remember we talked about Should Apple make a feature phone?' if you remember them. But we felt No, no, no - the future is in the smartphone, so let's put our energies in there."

"But nobody - none of us - would have guess that thee would be 1.8 million apps in the store, and that there would be over 2 million people in just the U.S. that are working on apps," Cook continued. "Those were all things beyond the imagination at the time."