Yesterday, I purchased a new smartphone. I had been plagued with constant technical problems during the previous two years of my phone contract that resulted in 5 separate instances of refurbished phones being sent to me, and I was ready for a reliable phone. The good news is, I got one! The bad news is, I may be becoming a smartphone addict.
OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. And of course, when you buy a new phone, you have to go through the whole process of restoring any backed-up data, applications, and so on. So that does take some dedicated time. But when that part has been completed, that’s when the addiction takes over.
As phones become “smarter” and more user-friendly, with new bells and whistles available either as native applications or downloadable apps, it becomes easier and easier to pay more attention to your phone and less attention to what’s going on around you. This extends to other mobile technology as well, which in many ways are just like big smartphones: tablets, iPads, and other handheld devices that can hijack your concentration and engagement in living. For the purposes of this article, though, we’ll stick with talking about smartphones.
We all know the evils (and often illegality) of not being hands-free if you’re using your phone while you’re driving – in fact, even if you are hands-free, I’m not convinced that’s always a safe move for some people. But that’s another story. However, our smartphones do a good job of keeping us engaged with everything except our surroundings, even when we’re not driving.
Here’s a great example: how many times have you gone to a restaurant, looked around, and seen the diners ignoring each other while they tap away on their phones? I see it every time. Now I have to say that if someone were to look at me and my family, they may occasionally see the same thing; in our case, we are usually all looking something up together as a result of a discussion, and phone-surfing hasn’t taken the place of conversation. I’m not so sure this is the case with everyone else out there.
Smartphones can be great tools to help us get much-needed information – yesterday, a weather/radar app saved my husband and me from walking through a parking lot in the pouring rain. This app enabled us to see that if we waited 10 minutes, the storm would be over, and we would be able to walk into the air-conditioned restaurant nice and dry (there’s nothing worse than walking into that same restaurant wet and shivering – been there, done that). So we waited, and had a nice, comfortable meal. BUT……… that same smartphone can suck you into playing Candy Crush Saga for an hour (or more) as you try to get past Level 33!
Mindful smartphone use?
I’m not saying that your smartphone shouldn’t be used for entertainment – that’s at least part of why you paid that hefty sum for the phone. But when you use your phone, use it mindfully, with an awareness of why you are using it and what you are doing, and an understanding of what you might be missing around you. And maybe we all should put our phones down a little more often than we do. This morning during a break, I had the option of playing a game on my phone, or sitting quietly and watching all the wildlife outside my window enjoy this beautiful weather. My phone stayed where it was.