Thank you to Michael Castner of The Daily Wrap, Wall Street Journal Radio Network for his time this week discussing smart phones and how they interfere with relationships. (interview is at 32:24 mins into the podcast)
Recent research in the UK, reported in Scientific American, shows that the presence of a cell phone while two people are having a meaningful conversation significantly affects the trust, openness, and empathy expressed during those conversations; even when the cell phone is in another room. Why?
Because we know it’s there and we’ve become an ‘instant response society’ addicted to knowing what’s going on in our extended world at any given time. Maybe there’s some work issue that needs attention and there’s an expectation that we will respond immediately or maybe someone mentioned us on Twitter or tagged us on Facebook. It’s not much different to an alcoholic who knows there’s a bottle of vodka in the cupboard and is distracted thinking about it.
The fear of being without your phone is now a recognized phobia – Nomophobia, and the number of ‘sufferers’ is on the rise. Why are we so obsessed with our phones?
For some, it’s a security blanket – we feel safer knowing the world, anything we need, is just a fingertip away. For others, we worry about missing out on something if we’re not obsessively checking for messages, emails and notifications – there’s a fear of losing connection with the outside world. And there’s another group who need the continuous endorsement of their ‘self’. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the encouragement we get in the form of ‘likes’ boosts our self-esteem.
If you constantly have your smart phone plugged into your ear; if you cannot sit through a meal without sneaking a peek; if you are unable to have a conversation one-on-one with the people who are right in front of you because you’re thinking about your online world, then it may be time to establish boundaries for yourself. You can do this by ‘time’ – specifying the times of each day when you will not check your phone or social networks and will instead devote this time, undivided to the ‘real’ people in your life. You could also do it by function ie don’t use your phone while (a) watching TV (b) during meals (c) on someone’s birthday etc.
There was a time when smoking in restaurants was considered acceptable, but now smoking anywhere is pretty much considered antisocial. Perhaps we’re heading towards a banning of phones in restaurants; maybe that will be a niche offering by some savvy owners who guarantee a phone-free environment for your dining experience. The next time you’re in a restaurant take a look around and see how many couples are actually talking to each other with no sign of a cell phone. Do they look anxious? 🙂
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