My next door neighbor invited me over a few months ago to check out his “Alexa” (the electronic device from Amazon you can ask to do things for you). I had only heard a bit about Alexa at that point. He showed me the way he uses it to control the music, lights, and heating in his house, and how he can ask Alexa about the news, the weather, and more.
He talked about how devices like Alexa can help people with sight impairments and other physical impairments. Fantastic!
He even suggested Alexa can provide companionship to seniors when he demonstrated a game of “20 Questions” with Alexa. Amazing.
But what about some of the downsides of all this incredible technology.
For most people, smartphones have become a “What did we do before we had this?” type of thing. Phone calls, text messages, e-mails, photos, music, navigation, podcasts, social media, notes, weather, news, and countless other functions make our phones feel indispensable.
My brother-in-law recently sent me a link to an article about a new book by social psychologist Adam Alter, who warns that our devotion to digital devices has morphed into something very much like addiction.
I wrote back about my own experiences. I often feel I’m using my phone too much. I check my e-mail all the time. During the past year, I began to check the news way more than I ever had, in part because of the unusual presidential campaign, and in part because of how easy it is because of my phone. I often become disconnected from the present moment because it’s so easy to get distracted by my phone.
I had the good fortune to recently speak with Amy Blankson, author of the new book, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era.
Amy’s wrote The Future of Happiness to deliver a roadmap for those feeling overwhelmed by the wave of technology; to help us to leverage technology to be more productive, connected and available, without coming at the price of health, over-stimulation, or an impact on our personal relationships.
People have hit a boiling point, Amy told me. There are too many distractions; an onslaught of messages and interruptions.
One solution she suggests is setting invisible boundaries. She compares it to invisible dog fences and the way once a dog is trained, the fence doesn’t even have to be on because the dogs have learned where the boundaries are.
Some boundaries we can create for ourselves, which are especially important when it comes to time spent with family and friends, include turning off the phone, putting it away when you are in the car, and switching to airplane mode (with Wifi off) at night.
Amy and I discussed the many boundaries in our lives we don’t think about. Like exercise. Thirty minutes a day of exercise is nice. Sixty minutes would be even better. Yet, eight hours would be too much. So we create balance. We figure out what works for us.
In the same way, we need to be nudged in the right direction regarding our phones by having an increase in our awareness about the way they are taking us away from other parts of our lives.
Perhaps each of us can cut back a bit by raising our own awareness. Learning that the average person opens and closes their phone 150 times a day is shocking. Perhaps we can cut back on the compulsive checking. Lots of food for thought; and Amy Blankson’s new book can help you navigate the subject.
Some of my rules, adopted over the last few years, include: I don’t keep my phone next to my bed at night. When out to dinner, I keep my phone in the pocket of the outdoor coat I wore, which I then hang on the back of my chair. Even if it’s close by (especially when it’s on the back of my chair), no longer having my phone in my pants pocket has created an awareness; a difference to remind me to not compulsively reach for my phone. Similarly, when at someone else’s house for dinner, I leave my phone in my outdoor coat.
What are your strategies to control overuse of your phone? Please join the conversation with your comments…