The creation of a new need
Last week, I shared this post on picking up the phone and making a more meaningful connection through phone calls. This week, I’m suggesting to put down the phone. I remember learning in business school that marketing is not about satisfying customer needs, but about creating customer needs. The Smartphone industry has created a need to be constantly accessible and a need to regularly fill quiet space with digital activity. This need has turned into a habit and a normative practice of constantly looking down to our screens to check our phone. But what does this really imply about the way we are living and being?
I am completely guilty at times, of interrupting a focused activity and impulsively checking my phone because I have succumbed to the lure of the ‘ding!’ that chimes from an incoming text message. However, as someone who is trying to be better every single day, I prefer to be more intentional, effective, and mindful of how I use my phone.
The genius of Smartphones
I don’t think there is anything wrong with Smartphones in and of themselves; in fact, I think the contrary–they are remarkable devices that can be leveraged wonderfully to live more effectively and innovatively. The ability to access data instantly, use applications to improve our work flow and communicate globally from any location, is a testament to the genius of this technological era. However, I think the hyper-convenience of Smartphones has given rise to a new kind of challenge in living more mindfully and more present; with ourselves and with others. As I wrote in this previous post, the only moment we have is the present moment so how will you make the most of it?
When Smartphones are not used smartly, I think they can become a crutch for distracting us from what we don’t want to deal with (i.e., looking at one’s phone to avoid making eye contact with our neighbour; feeling insecure, whether consciously or not, about ‘missing out’; not wanting to be alone with our thoughts; etc…). It also facilitates a new kind of forum for individuals to live in isolation, thereby altering (or even reducing) the nature of traditional social exchanges (i.e., face-to-face discussions, meeting in groups, working in teams, etc…). When I envision two people sitting across from each other at a dinner table, each of whom is looking down at their phone (and they may actually continue to talk to one another while simultaneously looking down at their phones), I consider this not a ‘face-to-face’ interaction, but a ‘crown-to-crown’ interaction–that is, two people facing the crowns of their heads to each other and spending most of their meeting in this way. It’s somewhat comical, actually!
Being smart about Smartphones
Everyone’s circumstances and needs are different, but for my personal lifestyle, it is not imperative that I be accessible at all times (other than rare exceptions with my children), so these are 3 simple strategies for putting down the phone that I try and be mindful of and implement, within reason:
a) Being present during face-to-face interactions (i.e., having a meal with family or friends), by putting my phone away and out of sight (unless there are extenuating circumstances, or unless I am using it for note-taking). I also prefer turing my ringer off when I really don’t want to be distracted from meaningful activities (which includes working, doing a special activity with my family, or reading).
b) Checking my text messages intentionally, when I know I can pay attention and respond properly.
c) Checking my personal emails intentionally, once or twice a day at a time when I can answer immediately, as appropriate. I have found this to be extremely useful in being prompt, thorough and organized. By checking and responding to all my emails in one or two large chunks, I don’t have to keep thinking about getting back to someone, throughout the week. I also don’t have a data plan on my phone, which also helps me avoid checking my emails mindlessly throughout the day. I prefer to respond to emails using my computer instead of my phone.
These are very simple tips and there are an abundance of more ways to effectively put down our phones as well as incorporate them into our daily lives without forming negative habits or addictions. All that being said, I think we can make a conscious effort to live our best life, by using our devices in ways that enhance our core values and goals of who we want to be and how we want to live. What does that mean to you?