The biggest thing to take our attention these days is our cell phones. It’s so easy to “stay connected” with little dings and chirps letting us know that someone is messaging from facebook, emailing, texting, beating you at a game, posting a picture on Instagram.
Let’s face it, it’s fun. It’s so fun in fact that scientists say it gives us a brief “high” equal to a drug addiction.
Each time we dispatch an email in one way or another, we feel a sense of accomplishment, and our brain gets a dollop of reward hormones telling us we accomplished something. Each time we check a Twitter feed or Facebook update, we encounter something novel and feel more connected socially (in a kind of weird, impersonal cyber way) and get another dollop of reward hormones. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction. <Read full article here.>
We feel important when we get a notification. It draws our attention so strongly that when we hear the ding we can’t focus on anything else until we see what it was about.
The sad part is, most of the time it’s trivial. An email subscription from a company you don’t care about, someone posted a picture of their lunch or forwarded a cute picture to you on Facebook.
Smartphones are stealing our relationship with the real world. I’m not saying I don’t want to answer a text from a friend or read an email from a client. But I don’t need to do that when I’m reading a story to my children or taking a walk with my husband.
Weaning yourself off the smartphone can be a challenge, but not impossible.
Start by turning off push notifications. It’s unnecessary to see everything instantly. Allow yourself to get used to some silence without your phone chirping at you.
Check social media at certain times of day. You don’t need to give it up completely- give yourself 30 minutes to check up on what’s going on and read messages. But keep it to once or twice a day. The average person checks facebook from their smartphone 14 times a day, so live life a while and then allow yourself to look at it when you know you need a break. (Remember the old fashioned tea time in the afternoon?)
Don’t check email on your phone. In fact, it’s best if you check it only at certain times of day. Emails distract and decrease productivity. Limiting how often you check your email increases productivity by a crazy amount, because it uses up so much willpower. We only have so much each day, let’s use it to do the things that are important to us (not the people who are emailing us)!
Every email requires a decision! Do I respond to it? If so, now or later? How important is it? What will be the social, economic, or job-related consequences if I don’t answer, or if I don’t answer right now? <Full article>
Put your phone on silent during important times of the day. For our family, this includes during homeschool and meal times. For me, personally, it means I leave it off in the morning when I’m working. It also includes when we go out to dinner, watch a movie or hang out with friends.
Have regular tech free days. Set aside a night each week or a full day to be technology free. Remember what it’s like to have quiet. Spend some time in nature without technology. Go camping and leave the phones home (or turned off). If it makes you nervous, purchase a set of walkie talkies for your hiking partners.
Vacation without your phones. Say what? Well, at least turn it off. Yes, we’re one of those horrible parents that doesn’t allow technology on our trips. I know it meant they couldn’t post a selfie of them at the Grand Canyon, but it also meant that we had to talk during the long car rides.
But what if someone needs to get ahold of me? Do what you are comfortable with. For me, when my husband and I go out, I have my phone on, in case the kids need something. As long as my kids are with me, I don’t worry about it and leave the phone silent and in my purse.
No one needs to know what you are doing and who you are with. Let’s face it- we can wear a mask on social media and it’s so easy to hide behind it. Our life can look so great posting pictures of us on the beach, the new outfit we got or eating dinner with a friend. But there is no need to show off or prove our worth. Let’s be an example of contentment. Just be.