If you’ve ever felt lonely, anxious, or like you just aren’t connecting to those around you, you’re not alone. Connection is a very human thing. For thousands of years, we depended on it as a species to survive. It’s no surprise that we crave meaningful connection to the people we care about as often as we can get it. Unfortunately, we keep trying to find connections in places that trick us to believe we’re getting the real thing, like social media.
Don’t get me wrong, social media can be used to help us keep track of the activities of friends and family. It can even reunite us with people who we shared a connection with in the past. But, in general, browsing social media pales in comparison to the experience of actually spending time with someone. The trouble is, it’s hard to tell.
For many of us, the need for connection triggers a reflex to reach for our phones and see what our friends are doing. These moments pop up all throughout the day and happen so often that it’s become a habit. Most of the time it’s not a big deal unless you’ve got lots to do, then it’s a time suck.
The problem happens when we start letting this habit interfere with the time we spend with those we care about. They happen during dinner, while watching TV, and even while talking with each other. New research shows huge drops in intimacy, connection, and closeness, even when your phone is visible and you are not using it. Just having it in sight is a distraction.
Prioritize connection in real-life
Next time you are spending time with someone in person, tuck your phone where you can’t see it, or even better, put it in another room where you can’t hear the buzz of a notification. The first few times will feel unsettling. Each time you feel the urge to reach for it, remind yourself that the person in front of you is more important than someone’s update. Over time, the constant need to keep checking your phone will fade.
Finding a few extra precious hours
This topic could not be more timely. This week I’m under a huge deadline to finish the manuscript of my next novel. If I miss the deadline, I miss a huge opportunity down the line that is really important to me. But, editing requires lots of time at the computer, time that I was struggling to find.
When I’m anxious, tired, or frustrated, I tend to reach for my phone because it’s mindless and offers items of interest that keep me from getting too overwhelmed. That’s a problem because something that was meant to be just a peek at the email that just came in sometimes turns into losing 20-30 minutes of scrolling. I won’t start in on the game apps, those are a problem too.
A few weeks ago, I created a rule for myself that I was only allowed to do phone activities after a meal, including snacks. This created structure for when it was a good time to use my phone and when I was supposed to be working. At first, it was really stressful because I was using my phone as a crutch and it was sucking hours of my day away. Once I got used to it, I’ve been finding extra time in my day when I can feel relaxed to spend time with my family and not feel like I have a bunch of stuff that needs to get done.
Discussion: What kind of rules do you have set around your personal phone use? Share in the comments!