We hear it all the time: Smartphones are dangerous to our society. Even our kids are obsessed. Our relationship with smartphones is far from sane. We are encouraged to have healthier relationships with them by limiting our use. And, yet, not using them is not the solution.
Let’s think about video games for a minute. Today, video games make up a $100 billion global industry, and most American homes have at least one person who plays them. I remember when video games became popular in the 1970s amidst loud debate about the consequences of the new technology. Over the years, video games have become part of the technological evolution (or revolution) of the modern world.
Our mobile phones are the same. They make us dumber, sadder, and less connected with civilization. At the same time, smartphones have made our lives much easier, more comfortable, and more interconnected than ever before. In most cases, these changes are good for us.
I started to think about the topic of creating a sane relationship with my smartphone a few weeks ago at the dentist. My usual dental assistant, who had shared her vibrant energy with me and other patients for years, was gone. A short conversation with the office manager clarified the facts: The dental assistant could not stop texting and obsessively looking at social media on the job. When the dentist asked her only to use her phone during lunch, she was unable to follow the new rules and left. “Those millennials,” said the elderly office manager, “are so obsessed with their phones that they choose their phone over having a stable job.”
What happened next was a bit funny. As I was getting comfortable in the dentist’s chair, knowing that I was going to spend the next two hours sitting there with my mouth open, I realized that I always keep my phone in my pocket when I visit the dentist. I check my messages and emails whenever I’m waiting for my mouth to get numb or have to wait in the middle of a procedure. I decided to leave my phone in my purse instead. I declared my dentist’s office a phone-free zone and spent the next two hours (and two more follow-up dentist visits) meditating, giving Reiki to myself, daydreaming, and wondering. My dentist pointed out that I was calmer than any of his other patients and asked for my secret.
Motivated by the good experience I had with not using my phone during these visits, I chatted about it with some friends and women I work with. These conversations led me to this important understanding:
It is up to you whether you let your smartphone abuse your life, or you create a sane relationship with it.
Just like everything else in life, you have the freedom to choose.
Once you accept responsibility to set boundaries on your smartphone use, you can make peace with your small device and create balance between feeling safe, informed, and connected and feeling isolated, discounted, and miserable.
Are you ready to create a sane relationship with your smartphone?
Here are a few ideas that I’ve collected from conversations with others that I enjoy practicing myself:
- Declare your bedroom a no phone zone.
Get your partner excited about spending time together in the bedroom talking (or having sex…) Need to charge your phone at night? Do it in another room. Use your smartphone as your alarm? Treat yourself to an old-fashioned alarm clock, and let your smartphone get a good night’s sleep too.
- Make meals about face-to-face time.
Designate a dinner time basket, where everyone in your family places her phone (on silent so no one gets distracted!) when it’s time to eat. Connect with one another over meals by creating fun new rituals, such as sharing one great thing that happened to each of you that day.
- Spare your phone from being a third wheel.
Do a little experiment the next time you go on a date with your loved one. Keep your phones out of sight the whole time you’re together so you can fully focus on your conversations with each other.
- Give your phone a bedtime.
Phones off at 8 pm! (Or whatever time you choose.) Allow yourself to wind down from your day by committing to a hard stop on phone time so your brain can relax. Believe me: the world will survive if you don’t check email before bed. Whatever needs your attention can wait until the next morning.
- Stop texting John (or anyone else) while you’re on the john.
Toilet paper, soap, and towels are bathroom necessities. Smartphones are not. Spend your time sitting on the toilet doing…nothing. You deserve a break.
Creating a sane relationship with your smartphone is possible once you set an intention to replace the special love connection you have with your device with a special love connection with other human beings.
And if you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone even more, put your phone away even when you are spending time with…you. You are a beautiful being, and you deserve your full attention.