Written by Founder and CEO, Sara Potler LaHayne.
Do you ever feel tempted to look at your phone while spending time with family or friends? It’s shocking how often I am with loved ones experiencing a special, momentous occasion and no one is looking at each other.
Instead, everyone is looking at their device.
Smartphones sold to us as a means of increasing productivity are a short-term proposition at best. Certainly the ability to communicate and respond immediately has its upside, but after a few weeks of feeling tired, over scheduled, and distracted, you have to wonder if it’s living up to the bill.
The problem goes far beyond work. In one study, just having a phone on the table between people (think, during a date) led to lower quality conversation and less empathy between participants, even if the phone was never touched.
Increasingly, people are finding ways to disconnect from their devices. Sleek looking “dumbphones” are on the rise, popular social media websites are declining in popularity, and techniques of curing technological addiction are coming out more frequently.
This is perhaps because burning people out your job or burning a bridge with a friend is not, in fact, productive.
But how can we tell whether smartphones are helping us or hurting us? Where do we draw the line?
Here are a few questions to help you get started. Take note of how you feel when considering your response to these questions. See if anything jumps out or surprises you:
Does your phone sleep with you? Does it come with you on vacation?
How many times do you check your phone each day?
Do you check your phone while working? How does that impact your flow state?
Do you feel pressure to be on social media?
These are some fairly common situations we find ourselves in today, and we all handle them in different ways. Some may impact you more than others. If anything stood out to you while answering those questions, you might want to consider how to approach those situations differently.
Here are a few tips to help you dial back:
Part of the problem with smartphones is that they’re right in our pocket. It’s so easy to reach down and check social media on an elevator, or on the bus, or waiting for a meeting to start. It’s also an easy distraction if we get stuck at work.
A colleague of mine plugs his phone in on the other side of the office so it won’t distract him. He only gets up and looks at it when he’s taking a break.
This helps him get into a flow state of mind (commonly referred to as getting in “the zone”), which can increase productivity by five times. It’s amazing what we can do when we are focused.
When I take a real vacation, I am totally offline. I am only on my device when I travel for work or short engagements. Really unplugging on vacation allows me to fully let go and be present where I am.
There, I can enter a totally relaxed frame of mind, refueling my energy so I can focus when I get back in the office. We call this the Power of Pause.
Social media affects our everyday life and emotions. Whether we post or browse, we are infiltrated with other people’s thoughts, views, and opinions. It all goes into how we see the world and the way we see ourselves.
If you have taken a break from social media, did you notice any benefits? Would you recommend it to others? If you have ever quit social media, what did you miss the most? If you eventually returned, what drew you back?
These are questions many people are asking at the height of our technological advancement, like a collective pause. It’s important for everyone to find balance as we move forward in an increasingly technological world.
We’ve all experienced the ways smartphones can both bring people together and pull them apart. While phones connect us to loved ones who are traveling or live far away, there is also evidence that smartphones can damage relationships and make in-person interactions less meaningful.
Ultimately, smartphones are not going away anytime soon. They are a part of our social fabric. But that doesn’t mean they have to encompass our entire social fabric.
Instead, we need to remind ourselves that we are in control. Our devices, our work, and yes, our friends and family, can wait until we finish our work or our date nights to find out how we’re doing.
They’ll survive, and we’ll be better for it.