Since their release in 2007, Smartphones are taking a toll on our health and our relationships.
Here are a list of my most urgent questions about my smartphone experience:
- Is it possible for me to have a smartphone and use it in a balanced and sane way?
- Does smartphone use naturally lead to compulsive overuse?
- Are some of us more at risk for smartphone addiction that others? (i.e. experiencing symptoms like craving, anxiety and spending too many hours using our smartphones even when it is having adverse effect on our life)
- My smartphone use makes me feel speedy, interrupted, mentally/emotionally exhausted and distracted? Is it just me or does everybody feel like this?
- How does my smartphone use impact others? Namely my daughter.
- How much time do I spend on my smartphone everyday, really?
To illustrate what I am pointing too, here are three multiple choice questions for you about your smartphone, and the impact your smartphone is having on your life.
This best describes my relationship with my smartphone:
This best describes how my smartphone makes me feel:
This best describes how smartphone use impacts my important relationships:
It interrupts my IRL (in real life) relationships
It distracts me when I am with people I care about
Sometimes, I find I am fighting with my children and/or partner about smartphone usage
Too much time on my smartphone makes it harder for me to connect with people IRL.
Keeps me connected to the people I love
Yes, of course there are a lot of wonderful things we do with smartphones: read maps, look up recipes, buy things, listen to podcasts, call my Mom on video, edit photos, and scroll social media, etc.
However smartphone overuse drains away all the positives. In a paradoxical way, the tool that is supposed to make us feel more connected is making us feel more separate and isolated. Smartphone overuse is damaging our health and our relationships.
Families face a particular conflict around their smartphone use. Parents have their child(ren) as their audience to their smartphone use. To me, when I am “on” my smartphone, I am “doing” all kinds of things on my phone: reading the NY Times on my smartphone, or texting about dinner plans, finding a recipe for dinner tonight, relating to a friend’s social media post, editing photos. To my daughter I am simply locked into a one-way gaze and looking at a screen I am holding in my hand. Added to this, our children mimic our smartphone use and soon want to be on our phone all the time or to have their own.
The saddest sight is going to a restaurant and see a family, a couple, and/or friends at a table “sharing” dinner except each person is only relating to the smartphone in their hand.
Martin Buber said in I and Thou “All real living is meeting”
Without good habits and boundaries, smartphones interfere with real living.
Here are 7 simple habits that will help you to create supportive boundaries with your smartphone:
Respect Your Real Life Morning Routine
Refraining from checking your smartphone first thing in the morning is a way of respecting your morning routine. Diving right into smartphone use creates speedy energy. Waiting to engage with your smartphone helps create a calmer start to your day. If you have children, not using a smartphone makes morning go smoother for them too. Beginning your day with real life activities like drinking water, making coffee/tea, getting breakfast, giving your partner and/or children a hug, or taking care of a pet is better way to start your day.
Relax and Connect to During Mealtime
Mealtime, whether you are eating alone of with others, can be a time to relax and connect. Smartphones interrupt meals and cause people to eat mindlessly and in isolated virtual silos. To create a good atmosphere at meals, we can put our phone on silent/vibrate, take it off the table or even place it away in our handbag.
Evening Are a Time to Rest Our Minds and Pay Attention To Real Life
Having a specific time to turn off your smartphone and focus instead on your real life is helpful. Place your cell phone out of sight to signal to yourself that it is time to turn your attention towards other activities and real people. Evenings can be a time to rest and refresh through real life activities and connecting with people in our real life.
Our bedrooms are for resting and intimacy
Make your bedroom a smartphone-free zone to encourage resting and intimacy. Remember when people used to read books in bed? By removing your smartphone from your bedroom, there is less temptation to compulsively check social media, read another article, or watch clips on Youtube before bed. Instead read a physical book, cuddle with your partner/children or pets, share a conversation about your day, or simply lay down, close your eyes, and relax after a long day.
Take a weekly 25-hour break from Technology
Powering-down our computers and phones (and other electronic devices) for specific and routine periods of time during our week can rejuvenate us and allow us to reconnect with ourselves and the people around us.
Put Your Phone down and Put It Away
So many times when we are with other people in real life, we keep our phones in our hands or in our sight. Many people place their phone on the table during a meal or a meeting and anxiously keep glancing at it or picking it up during conversation. This is an intimacy interruption and makes it difficult to sustain human contact because it breaks up eye contact, conversation and body language. This inattention hurts the people we are with in real life. It feels horrible to feel like the person you are with is more interested in their cell phone than in you! Set the stage to connect in real life by putting down your phone and placing it out of your sight.
Know Your Somatic Limits
We are all different and therefore each of us has our media/technology tipping point where engaging with our smartphone stops feeling helpful or good for us. Martha Graham said “The body never lies” and this idea applies to our unique response to technology. Our body sends us a clear signal that we need to take a break to rest and refresh. Some people get a headache, other people’s eyes hurt, and some people just feel more distracted and forgetful. Whatever your body’s signal, honor yourself and take a break.
Your turn: Tell me in the comments, which of these boundaries feels the most supportive to you right now?