Have you ever been coerced into abandoning your cell? Or gently encouraged to do so at a social gathering? Were you miffed? Resigned? Are you more inclined to forfeit the reassurance of your digital devices when you see groups of people paying more attention to tiny screens than each other?
That may say something about my appropriate manners when it comes to putting away the phone when I’m out, or the absence of encountering this phenomenon is proof of one-on-one socializing and little “group engagement.” This is in part because I’m typically tied to my, you know… hardware. Laptop at the ready. Smartphone in hand. Emails here, social media there.
Just Say No (Or Text It)
When I read “Step Away From the Phone!” on the Times, I was aware that I’ve begun doing exactly that – limiting my smartphone usage – in my own small way.
I no longer sleep with my laptop in bed, much less in view.
In fact, I shut. it. down.
I don’t want those blinking lights while I’m trying to sleep! As for the cell, I turn off the volume, I turn it over, and while it’s easily accessible, it’s not enticing me to pick it up – even if I wake in the night with a paragraph floating through my head.
While I may have initiated that bedtime routine on my own, apparently some may need convincing. “The More You Text, The Less You Sleep,” appearing in The Mail UK, points out that those who text before bed are more stressed and suffer a worse night’s sleep. But that’s not all:
U.S. researchers found that people who send the most texts experience the most sleep problems… a higher number of daily texts was associated with more sleep problems…
The study also found that frequent text messaging is associated with more friendship-related stress…
Phones Provide Partial Information
None of this is surprising when you think about it. Relying on text (like email), we lose the nuance of voice and gesture, which makes resolution of conflict far more difficult. In fact, any nuance of tone is more difficult to discern, even among old pals.
We easily make assumptions in reading a text that lead to misunderstanding. We feel pressured to respond immediately, though we’re physically with family or friends. We allow texts to interrupt our “real world” activities.
We’ve blurred the boundaries not only between workplace and home life, but group time and one-on-one time, not to mention – we sacrifice the sanctity of evening to wind down, and eventually, sleep.
Perhaps we should all adopt a “phone stack” policy in our homes, whereby spouses, partners, kids and teens all put their devices on the “off” position and pile them on the kitchen table.
Remember Being Unavailable?
Is it really so terrible to be unavailable? Remember unavailable? Wasn’t it a good thing at times?
Has it really been so few years since the days when everyone wasn’t staring at a small hand-held device, or plugged into it while commuting, while eating, while exercising? What happened to the fascination of checking out your fellow passengers on the subway? What about actually noticing the beauty of a brilliant fall day, gazing at the clear sky and the colorful foliage?
My kids were among the last of their friends to get cell phones. I was against it in principle, seeing no reason for it – in terms of cost or usefulness. I yielded that position when schedules and single parent juggling required it. Then, it was a matter of both logistical necessity and convenience.
It’s the convenience aspect we’ve lost sight of. Our devices have become an intrusion, an assumption of 24/7 accessibility, everything of equal urgency in our ain’t-got-no-patience society.
Rethinking, Recalibrating, Redressing…
Given the nature of the work I do – tied to news items and to social media, my smartphone and online activities are an essential element of what pays the bills. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy these activities – I do – but I try not to lose perspective.
So I’m rethinking that phone stack, my texting habits throughout the day (generally work), and recalling that I sometimes read articles on my smartphone – while walking.
That last? I’m going to cut it out. And I certainly plan on shutting off and stowing my devices when it’s time to sleep. After all, in personal or professional life, doesn’t setting boundaries make us more effective?
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