The other day I was hanging out with my boyfriend watching Stargate… actually, he was watching Stargate… I was scrolling through my phone. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but he took my phone out of my hands and overhanded it across the room! Then, holding both my hands together in his, he looked me in my eyes and sternly, but with a smirk on his face, said, “Get off your phone.”
Selfishness at the Root of the Problem
At that particular moment I wasn’t interested in Stargate. I didn’t feel like watching it. I wanted to do something else. Out of boredom I started going through my phone, not considering whether it was disrespectful. Most of us don’t realize how often we do this until someone points it out, but it’s not a good habit to have especially when we’re in the presence of another person. In my own experience, I’ve been annoyed with seeing groups of friends or couples at a restaurant or coffee shop on their phones, totally disengaged from each other yet all seated together. It doesn’t make sense to venture out of our homes into our social circles only to consume ourselves in tiny, lonely, palm-sized, digital worlds that allow limited room for face-to-face communication. We’ve developed a terrible habit substituting real interaction with digital convenience. We all experience this distaste for how technology steals away the attention of the people we interact with, yet we all fall victim to the contagiousness of mobile technology.
Our obsession with mobile devices prevent us from building proper communication skills. While we spend the majority of our days occupied with the fascinations of a little device, we’re unable to interact with people the way we used to before the rise of technology. We even miss out on powerful real life experiences like music festivals and performances because we’re looking at them through our phones! I do it too and I think it’s insane!
We’ve also developed shorter attention spans and impatience. When a stranger sits beside us on the bus and says “good afternoon” we’re more annoyed they’ve distracted us from achieving a high score on Candy Crush, than interested in making friendly conversation. We’re so addicted to entertainment from mobile games and social media that we don’t get enough human interaction and intimacy. We’ve created a self-involved, self-modified digital life where we are in total control of what we choose to see and what we don’t. As a result, we forget how to show respect, listen, understand, relate, empathize and use our words wisely when interacting.
Insecurity and Intimacy
I mentioned how our obsession with our phones prevent us from engaging in human interaction and intimacy. This is a serious and common problem. One thing I’ve observed is the secrecy the online world provides. When you have a password-protected mobile device or laptop, you can keep a lot of secrets. I’ve experienced this and my obliviousness to someone’s secret life, hidden under the veils of the Internet, cost me a lot of time and caused me a lot of hurt. Life online is not on open display. It’s so easy to delete a shameful conversation or revisit a coworker’s photographs on Facebook without getting found out. There’s an ugly kind of secrecy that can develop from the privacy we have from our devices and I think it’s one of the current leading causes of trust issues in relationships. And as if the threat of secrecy wasn’t enough, our constant use of our phones can build a wall between us and the people we love.
When we’re at home watching a movie with our families and we’re browsing through our phones, our body language sends signals that we’re not interested in sharing the experience with our families. Similarly, when we’re on a date, the last thing we should do is whip out our phones to start a texting conversation with our friends. It’s disrespectful and it shows the person we’re with we’re not content with their company. Nothing is wrong with checking our phones, but constantly being glued to it really holds us back from experiencing intimate and special moments. In the end, we’re the ones missing out on life.
The Solution is Simple
Okay so we admit we’re a little too hooked on our phones, so what do we do about it? I say, let’s be deliberate about not allowing it to consume all our time. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions:
- Delete the apps you’re obsessed with and take a break
- Keep your phone in your purse or pocket when you’re out on a date
- Turn your phone on silent and keep it away from your bed when you go to sleep beside your spouse
- Leave your phone in another room during family time, especially at dinner
- Make time each week to sit together and talk, instead of just being in the same space doing different things
- Once a month go on a “retreat” by abandoning your phone and spending the day in nature
Becoming aware of how often and why we idle away on our phones will keep us from getting too dependent on having it as an appendage.
After all, what’s more valuable? Checking my like count on Instagram or watching another episode of Stargate with my boyfriend, regardless of my initial disinterest? I’d say the latter. Quality time together is much more valuable than trying to escape a moment by diving into our phones.
Disclaimer: Stargate really isn’t that boring… my boyfriend is just going through all the seasons. From now on I’m going to eat humble pie and just watch it with him! Maybe when it’s over I’ll get to pick the next show ;).