By Megan McGrath
This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from the Great Health Guide, a 96five community contributor.
I’m sure some people, including myself, can say that they are guilty of the daily and senseless swiping and clicking and ‘liking.’ The need to post and share our lives, along with reading the updates of others, is a bizarre behavior we have and it is gaining momentum at a serious rate. Most importantly it is hurting our relationships and is devaluing what it means to be in the here and now.
Here are a few true stories:
Recently, I met a girlfriend for coffee and as soon as she sat down she put her phone on the table – I had guessed she was expecting an important call…apparently not! She proceeded to ‘check’ it at every beep or ring. Is it just me or is that rude? She’d glance at the screen, read the text, text back a response and then attempted to recommence our fragmented conversation. I left feeling deflated and disappointed at our lack of connection.
This morning at my daughter’s swimming lesson, I sat bemused as I watched most parents spend the entire class with their heads in their phones. From time to time their little persons would look up expectantly for praise – nope, no, nothing…too busy!
‘It’s time to turn off our phones & Look-Up… Life is Happening Now’
My husband and I were out at dinner last week and I noticed a gaggle of laughter and delight as a group of young women gathered for a ladies’ night. Anyhow, about an hour into the evening one of them asked the waiter to take a photo of the group. Every single one of them, from then on had their face in their phone. I am guessing they were filtering, framing and making the shot look perfect before uploading to social. To sit and watch the demise of this exchange was really sad.
We are not connecting:
The problem is that as we move in and out of paying attention, our conversations become light, losing much of its authentic possibility. Even as we claim to ‘connect’ more than ever before via text, e-mail and social media, we don’t listen intently any more amid the constant interruption. Whether we’re texting with others who are not present, scanning the Internet or enjoying the instant gratification of ‘Facebook likes’, many of us now routinely interrupt face time with loved ones to scratch the itch of online distraction.
Of course, mobile technology does play an incredibly important role in all modern jobs (and life). Whether it’s checking in via email in the evening while you’re on the move or connecting with someone far away, smartphones enable us to plug in conveniently and efficiently. However, there is a very real flipside. Our preoccupation with our phones encroaches on our time spent deepening relationships, connecting, seeing, listening, reflecting and being in the moment.
Here are some facts. In 2013, A Nielsen study found that 82 percent of Australians spend an average of 23.3 hours online each week. This is up from 2003 study where 73 percent of people spent an average of 6.7 hours online. That’s an increase of nearly 17 hours per week which is an enormous chunk of time that we spend with our face in a phone or device.
So how badly do you depend on your phone?
- Do you sleep with your phone beside your bed and check it as soon as you wake up?
- Are you likely to post something on social media and check for ‘likes’ five minutes later?
- Do you check emails or texts in traffic?
- Do you review and respond to each incoming message, alert or beep?
- Do you have distracted conversations with family members?
If yes, here are a few basic ideas around doing a ‘digital detox’:
- Turn off all your devices at a defined time each day, say 9pm and have one day each week without access.
- Keep your phone in a glovebox when you are driving. Keep it on silent or in your bag if you are socializing with friends.
- Get off line at least one hour before to going to bed. Looking at your screen can reduce melatonin levels affecting your quality of sleep.
- Don’t have your phone in the bedroom or with you during meal times.
- When you are with your family and friends, as much as possible avoid accessing your technology – it’s not good manners.
‘Life is happening right now; Let’s experience the moments’
Without our phones to distract, we can experience moments. When we are freed up to take notice…there is a real beauty in noticing life. The benefits of real-time, face-to-face conversation can’t be understated. The shortlist of what it fosters includes empathy above all else, but also trust and respect, discovery, patience, gratitude, mindfulness, connection and happiness.
Megan McGrath has a Health Science degree, is a professional accredited Wellness Coach, and a certified Fitness Trainer and Founder of Chasing Sunrise – a Health and Wellness Consultancy. For more health articles go to 96five community contributor Great Health Guide.