One Sunday afternoon, a couple weeks back, I found myself in a weird place. I wasn’t in the best of moods, and was feeling anxious about the future. I noticed that I had pulled my phone out of my pocket 5-6 times in a matter of a few minutes. I would then proceed to turn it on, look at the screen, then turn it off. When I caught myself, I thought, “What the fuck? I wonder how many times I do this on a daily basis?”
It was at that moment, I realized that I checked my phone at least 100-250 times a day. Whether it be through texts, phone calls, checking the times, social media, etc. I was constantly on my phone.
I decided to power my phone off for 5 hours and partake in other activities. At first, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was outside in my backyard trying to hit this large oak tree with a small pebble, I missed. I then jumped in my pool, noting how cool the water felt when my phone wasn’t on my mind.
I made a paper shark fin for my pet lab/pit bull mix and fastened it around her chest with a belt, I then watched her run around the yard like a little Indiana grass shark.
I read a lot… outside, I even had to spray OFF on my limbs in defense against the Zika virus. Life becomes scary when you’re outside without your phone.
I practiced a few of my signature high-kicks, which you have probably witnessed if ever around me under the influence. I can hit a target about 9 feet off the ground, but that is neither here nor there.
Anyways, the point is that when I took a break from my phone, my worries started to dissipate.
I am very much aware of the fact that we live in an age where as professionals, we need our phones to do our jobs effectively. But there is a strong possibility that spending too much time on these devices could be leading to some serious issues in our mental and emotional health.
1. Start Checking Email Twice a Day
How many times do you check your email each day? I would venture to say that for many professionals this number is in the double digits. One day this week try checking your email at 11 a.m. and then again at 4 p.m. These time slots will allow you to knock out your morning and afternoon emails in two settings, while enabling you to concentrate fully on more important work. At first, you’re going to feel some anxiety as the little number on the email icon grows larger and larger. This is completely normal, you’re just a tech addict experiencing withdrawals.
2. Choose Three Forms of Social media
Raise your hand if you regularly use Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. I am challenging you to choose three of the “Big Five.” Not only will you be able to create better content on each, but you will save yourself some sanity. When I consult with businesses in the area of social media, one of my first recommendations is to choose one form of social media and do it really well. I have found that many organizations have the misconception that it is advantageous to be present on ten across the board. What happens is that they eventually become overwhelmed and stop creating content entirely. More is not always better. The human mind was not created to live five different digital lives at once, pick your poison.
3. Daily Phone breaks
Set aside one hour each day to not check your phone at all. Power it off, turn it on airplane mode, whatever. Do not look at it. Take this time to be in your own head away from technological distractions. Our cell phones cause us to constantly be thinking about the future, and in turn we are never fully present. A huge factor of happiness is being content with the present. When we spend 30 minutes at a time staring at our screens we are living in this digital twilight zone.
4. Phones Go Face Down at Dinner
When was the last time you had dinner with your family, friends or significant others and were 100% off your phone? I have mixed emotions on this, because we have grown so dependent on our devices that conversation can easily grow awkward.
I personally have noticed that many people, myself included, really struggle with making eye contact when in the midst of deeper more intimate conversations. I think this in part is due to our over reliance on our devices when social settings grow uncomfortable.
Our grandparents sure figured it out. When Carl made an ass of himself at the Christmas party, they couldn’t run to the safety of their screens. Instead they had to face the social setting head on, and let Carl know he was being an ass. The problem was addressed, Carl stopped being an ass, and the party continued on. Now, well… we Snapchat it and uncomfortably touch our faces.
5. A Few Things That Hopefully Go Without Saying
I also think we need to be doing a better job of staying off our devices while driving. Opening Snapchat nudes from your girlfriend are all fun and games until you hit your neighbor's prized British Shorthair cat, Douglas.
The neighborhood then goes into a complete uproar, because Douglas has been a beloved mascot of the Sunnyvale Cul-de-sac community for the past 12 years. You eventually get evicted and your conscious forces you to start serving at a cat shelter, where you regularly get viciously clawed. Because they know, all the cats know what you did.
Finally, you have to break-up with your girlfriend because she indirectly killed Douglas and your life continues to go down hill from there.
Don't Snapchat and Drive.