I know a guy who when he goes on a first date, he leaves his phone at home. How wonderful and rare! In fact, when was the last time you boarded an elevator and relished in the awkwardness that is standing next to strangers without pulling out your phone? Have you ever looked around your Uber pool to realize everyone (including the driver!) is scrolling through their screens?
I suppose apples have always been an eerie temptation for us humans. When it comes to the science behind it all, studies are showing that you don't even have to be using it, but the mere sight of a cell phone, on say a table during a business meeting or on the bar beside you during a date, has serious and tremendous effects on connectedness and interpersonal relationships.
Think your phone is essential for connecting with friends and family? It is the exact opposite - our cell phones allow for only a false sense of connectedness. Because of our phones, nobody is willing to go visit their best friend's new baby in person because she is right there in your timeline - real life connection lost... “The number one public health crisis in the US is loneliness”, says psychotherapist Esther Perel and a new culprit for the deterioration of relationships are our digital devices.
The irony of this post is that if you are reading it, then you are most likely doing it through a screen. I am not about to advocate that you completely shut down your use of technology, that is unrealistic - our cells phones, digital watches, tablets and computers are a necessary part of modern life.
It is moderation I am seeking to champion. Nobody is present anymore. We are scarily addicted to our phones.
How are our cellular companions eroding our relationships to nothingness? What is happening that our digital devices are not allowing us to engage? To curtail loneliness and for the sake of all your relationships, I hope that you will read on.
You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish
In an article titled, ‘You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish’, Time covered a recent study by Microsoft that revealed “that since the year 2000…[our] average attention span dropped from twelve seconds to eight seconds”. The attention span of a goldfish is on average nine seconds.
It is clear something is going on to disrupt our focus. The article goes on to highlight that our life spent online has allowed for this - that a “weaker attention span may be a side effect of evolving to a mobile Internet”.
Why is focus and some semblance of an attention span important? It allows us to do such things as make memories.
In a study to measure memory, psychological scientist, Linda Henkel amassed data to support that, “when people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record [an] event... it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences”. That is when we rely so heavily on our phones to capture a moment, we do not properly focus our attention and thus, a proper memory is never made. (Association For Psychological Science)
It’s fine, because surely you can flip through those photos later to “remember” said special moment right? Wrong. Henkel’s research further, “ suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them. In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them”. (Association For Psychological Science)
We need to attach some sort of attention to that which is in front of us - because of our phones, we aren’t even making memories anymore.
The Mere Sight of A Cell Phone During Face to Face Conversations Can Ruin Relationships
How are our cellular companions eroding our relationships to nothingness? What is happening that our digital devices are not allowing us to engage?
In a couple of experiments out of the University of Essex, data showed that the mere presence of a mobile phone, say if you simply leave it in view on the dining table whilst out to lunch with a friend, can “interfere with human relationships, an effect that is most clear when individuals are discussing personally meaningful topics. [The scientists] found evidence [that cell phones] can have negative effects on closeness, connection, and conversation quality” (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships).
That is, even if you don't touch your phone, the mere presence of it on a dining table or on a conference room table during a business meeting, erodes connection.
Why is it That the Sight of a Cell Phone Can Disrupt Engagement and Connection with Others?
In an article titled, ‘How Your Cell Phone Hurts Your Relationships’, Scientific American publicized new studies that suggest, “that cell phones may serve as a reminder of the wider network to which we could connect, inhibiting our ability to connect with the people right next to us”.
The article went on to explain that, “because of the many social, instrumental, and entertainment options phones afford us, they often divert our attention from our current environment, whether we are speeding down a highway or sitting through a meeting” (Scientific American). In essence, the sight of your mobile telephone most easily distracts you from the present, pressing your mind to drift.
The Effects of Not Paying Attention To Your Partner
The age old reasons why couples fight and break up have always revolved around money and physical intimacy - it seems now-a-days you can add digital devices to the list.
A study out of Brigham Young University is, “one of the first to report that a person’s engagement with technology can actually make their partner depressed..When your partner attends to a phone instead of to you, it feels like rejection”, and within the body, the brain interprets and responds to this rejection in, “the same way it does to physical pain. Even mini-rejections, such as a partner turning to the phone in the middle of a conversation, can elicit the common reactions rejections cause—hurt feelings, a drop in mood and self-esteem, and a surge of anger and resentment. Over time, these small wounds can fester and increase conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, and lead to a drop in life satisfaction and an increase in symptoms of depression”. (Psychology Today)
More and more studies show that digital phones and devices have tremendous effects on interpersonal relationships - so much so for the wellbeing of any relationship, perhaps it’s best to leave your phone out of sight when engaging face to face.
What To Do?! What To Do?! | Tricks and Tips to Help You Check Your Phone Less
If you want to be a lonely, zombie with no memory of anything, cool, spend 1000 hours a day on your phone. If you want to wean yourself off of constantly being on your phone, you have got to stop relying on the dopamine release that supports the compulsion that is checking your black mirror every other second - you have got to break the habit. Here are some tips and tricks.
1) Download the Moment App
And the Moment site reads: “Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit.”
2) Sleep with Your Phone In Another Room
This will cut down on you immediately checking your phone when you wake up and last thing before you go to bed. There’s such a thing as reading books or talking to your partner that can perfectly replace time lost looking at your telephone machine in bed. If you use your phone as your alarm clock….buy an alarm clock.
3) When You’re Standing Around, Just Stand Around
For those times you are stuck on an elevator or in line for something, resist the urge to scroll at nothing on your phone and return to the good old days of getting lost in the thoughts in your head - or even better yet, talk to another human being!
4) Occasionally Delete Certain Apps
When I realize I have gone too far, I delete my Instagram and Facebook apps for a certain amount of time so I can break the habit of switching on my phone for no reason.
5) Turn Off Notifications
You really only need to be notified if someone is calling you or if someone texted you. You don’t need to be notified about emails, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - will Rome burn if you don’t reply to a DM in 3.2 seconds?
6) Leave Your Phone Behind
If you are running a quick errand, entering a work meeting, going on a walk or, going on a date, try leaving your phone at home.
7) When You Have Other Things Going On, Rid of Your Phone
If you are watching a movie, writing in your diary or reading a book put your phone in the other room so you are not tempted to drift.