In this guest post, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Amanda Bowers Carver pinpoints where many of us go wrong with our phones and shares some no-nonsense steps to get off the phone and back into life.
We all know it’s true, that nagging voice inside is noticing more and more: We’ve become addicted to our smart phones. First thing in the morning (even before coffee!), last thing before turning out our bedside light, waiting at traffic lights or for tables at restaurants, and even during lulls in conversation with our friends and family, we light up our phones and check Facebook, Instagram, texts, email, news and other apps. For some it goes so far as answering calls during sex, or texting while driving – a fatal hazard We hardly have time to enjoy a beautiful moment before we’re posing and taking pictures of it to post on our media pages. Our experiences are being hijacked by the cataloging of them, and all to supposedly help us feel more connected, maybe even more alive ... but is it working?
Now that social media and the smart phones that put it constantly at our fingertips have been standard items for many years, the research is rolling in on how much better off we really are from these powerful inventions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn’t look good. According to a study at the University of Derby, the average smart phone user spends 3.6 hours on their device a day, with 13% of research participants showing full addiction behaviors. And it’s coming with a toll of less connectedness and increased depression
I’m all for smart phones and social media! I love that I get to know the little goings on in my friends’ and family’s lives, and even “watch” their children grow up despite the sometimes thousands of miles between us. I love that I can quickly search for the nearest taco stand from anywhere that I am. I love that I can follow up on email or pay bills while waiting at the doctor’s office.
But what is the price for these conveniences? And what can one do about balancing the scale between help and harm? Borrowing from the ever-wise world of mindfulness, you may find that disconnecting from your phone for even brief periods of time brings great riches to the present moment you are actually living.
Instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, try:
Instead of reaching for your phone last thing at night, try:
Instead of reaching for your phone at a traffic light or while waiting in line, try:
Instead of reaching for your phone while on your lunch break or eating meals alone, try:
Instead of reaching for your phone while with people, try:
If possible, push yourself to carve out moments of your day or week where you turn your phone off or at least leave it on vibrate in the other room. Delete apps that you notice are sucking up too much of your time. (I personally did this with much success in terms of improved productivity and time for, gasp, reading actual books!)
Remember, our phones may be really good at lighting up areas of our brain that our brain then interprets as a reward. They may be really good at distracting us from our boredom or anxiety. They may be really good at directions home. But they can’t replace the people in our lives. And they certainly can’t live our lives for us. A perfectly posed picture can’t replace the experience of taking in a gorgeous mountain sunset or your dog greeting you with his merrily wagging his tail. And a perfectly choreographed video can’t replace the actual experience of your first wedding dance, new husband or wife warm in your arms.
When we’re plugged into our phones, we miss out on so much. We miss out on our beautifully unscripted and uncatalogued lives. These spontaneous moments are the treasures we all look back on with love and joy. Nothing could be more important.
Amanda Bowers Carver is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Atlanta, GA who offers guidance in the pursuit of improved vitality, connection with others, and creating a more meaningful life. Her specialties include helping couples and individuals with problems related to mood instability, relationship troubles, and struggles finding fulfillment in life, with a special passion for helping both gay and straight couples create and enjoy lasting love and affection in their relationships. Connect with Amanda on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog Earth Meets Sky, with Pie for more ideas about how to generate a wise and vital life. For information about working with Amanda as a therapist, please visit her website, Therapy With Amanda.