Are you addicted to your smart phone? How do we wrestle with the VERY real connection we have with our cellphones?
For a weekend, I tried “breaking up” with my phone, after listening to a TED talk that basically explained how notifications on our phone are basically like slot machines in a casino that we didn’t ask to play. The tech is designed to draw you in, engage, and then receptors in your brain register this as a burst of satisfaction and euphoria.
I thought, “Not in my brain!! Phone Companies … You think you can just come into my brain and scramble it around and make me do things I don’t want to do?… Well, I’ll show you . . . . . let me just check this text real quick.”
In many respects, my response to this TED talk may have been a slight overreaction. So, after giving it some serious thought, I decided to break down what lead to me hearing this information 1x, turn around, and do a 180º shift.
- A compelling and engaging talk
- Stories that personalize the speaker’s point of view
- Statistics, facts, and figures that ground the talk with a level of certainty
- AND each point that was made played into a very real FEAR
This content was very persuasive, well-articulated, but I think what was missing for me was the actionable takeaway. My emotional mind heard, “LOOK OUT! THIS IS A PROBLEM. PEOPLE HAVE TO CHANGE.”
Internally, I thought, “Ok! I’m ready. Let’s do this!” However, I missed the follow through formula, or actionable steps that (as the consumer of this information) I can use to improve. Additionally, when fear is triggered there is an internal sense of urgency that says, “Act now! Do now! Think later.”
So, without a clear action plan, and an internal compass driven by my fear of being controlled by robots, I did the following:
- Turned off the notifications on my phone
- Kept my phone in airplane mode most of the day
- (Or) left my phone in another room
- Changed my background image on my phone to something dark, plain, and less colorful than the image of ocean waves I had before
This lasted about a day and a half for me (my husband lasted a couple days longer), and here are the results/consequences of my temporary break with technology:
- Several texts, calls, and emails from friends, colleagues, and clients were missed and I had an overall slower response time.
- Less of my time was spent on social media, which was pretty refreshing.
- I read more.
So, the question still remains: How do I stay connected to the people in my life that I’ve made social contracts with, and honor my own needs? While I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, the following steps are my best attempt to find the space between unplugging and getting off the grid & being plugged into the matrix.
- If you’re going to keep your notifications on (I turned mine back on pretty quickly) decide which Apps are most important to you. For example, I probably need to see when I receive a text message or an email, but I might not need to see every notification from Pandora, Podcasts, or Waze.
- Knowing that it’s nearly impossible to not look at or respond to a text or email when it pops up, if I’m working on a project that requires more focused/creative energy, I can put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” or “Airplane mode” for the hour or two that I need to be fully engaged.
- Lastly, if I’m going to modify the unwritten social contract with how I respond to texts or email, it might be helpful to include the people whom I communicate with most on the changes.
Have you ever sent a message to a friend, maybe a GIF of a three-toed sloth that says #mondays. Three minutes go by, you look at your phone, thinking “Maybe they replied and I missed it…” Nothing. Two minutes go by, you open your phone thinking maybe they’re typing and you’ll see the three wavy dots that shows their typing…Nothing. You tell yourself you’re being silly. But are you? I mean, the last time you guys hung out you did say that one thing they didn’t think was very funny. Well, I mean, they laughed, but they didn’t LAUGH LAUGH, you know? You check your phone again. You slide the text over to see the time you sent it…It’s been seven minutes. No biggy! They’re probably in a meeting or something…Or are they? Didn’t they say they were taking today off? Didn’t they say that they were going to be home and spend time catching up on work from home? I mean, they ALWAYS seem to have their phone out when I see them. Could they REALLY NOT have seen this yet? What did I DO???! Maybe I should text them again? No. I’m just going to go on with my day. If they reply they reply. If they don’t they don’t.
——They REPLIED!!!! (Sigh) Hahahaha. They thought it was hilarious. I knew it was. Sloths are awesome. Ok. Now where was I? That’s right, I was checking emails, doing laundry, planning my meals for the week, and organizing my calendar. If only I had more time….
We know what it’s like to feel dismissed or ignored, and while we can’t manage other people’s feelings for them, giving people we care about/are accountable to a gentle heads-up could be a simple way to avoid sending close friends or colleagues into a spiral where they’re left to draw their own conclusions.