Smartphones are everywhere. Even if you don’t have one, I bet you can list a ton of people who own one. Heck, you can probably see a ton of people right now that have one out. These amazing little handheld computers can do amazing things. I can text my wife, video chat with an old friend, check email, update my blog, search the web, and take pictures, all while the phone is giving me step-by-step directions to a destination and counting my steps, just to name a few things. And I can do all that with a device that fits in my pocket! Modern technology is truly a miracle and a wonder.
But this technology can also serve as a distraction. I’m sure we’ve all been interrupted by the vibrating, chirping and chiming of smartphones at some point. Too often that vibrating and chiming is coming from our own pockets. Smartphones seem to be taking over our lives, with more and more of our time spent bent over the little glowing screens.
I’m not suggesting that smartphones are evil or should be banned. I acknowledge the luxury as well as the immense usefulness of phones. A recent example comes from our house hunting. While we’ve been looking for houses, many of which go under contract in less than 48 hours, timing has been everything. If we can’t find houses, contact our realtor and have her set up a showing, we lose opportunities to bid on houses. Having access to the Internet, real estate apps, text messaging and a phone while on the go have been crucial to finding houses. And that’s just one small example.
However, I think we’re spending too much quality time with our phones and not enough time looking into the eyes of loved ones, cuddling on the couch, talking face to face, reading a good book, enjoying a meal, and spending time in the great outdoors. We need to appreciate our technology enough to learn when it’s time to put our phones away and be in the moment.
It’s time to stop living in 15 square inches of glass and metal.
But in an effort to make this change, we can’t just say, “Put your phone away.” We need specific steps to help us change our habits. So I’ve put together this list of obvious places that we should keep our phones turned off or put away (or both). Some of these should be common sense and others might be difficult. There’s a lot more to life than a 4-inch screen! Change will be a little uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.
Put Your Phone Away!
- In the car – this should be obvious. Not only is it extremely unsafe to drive while texting or otherwise distracted, it is illegal in most states and many countries around the world. Even if it’s not illegal, just don’t do it. Texting and driving increases stopping time, decreases awareness and causes thousands of accidents and deaths every year. A quick message or picture is not worth your life or the lives of those around you. Here are some scary and interesting statistics about using your phone while driving. Seriously, put the phone down in the car. It can wait!
- Dinner Table – OK, now that we’re past the dangerous part, let’s get into some other places where we really need to put the phones away. Call me traditional or whatever, but I love family dinners. If it’s just my wife and I or a huge family gathering, family dinners are the best. Enjoy these precious moments with your family and friends by putting your phone away. You can do it. You don’t need to Instagram your plate or check Snapchat for some new stories. They’ll be there in a few hours when dinner is over. Respect the dinner table and put that phone back in your pocket.
- In the bathroom – first of all, this is gross. A few days ago I was using the restroom and a guy in the stall was doing his business. It’s a small restroom and after a few seconds I could hear the faint sound of some sort of fantasy smartphone game. Swords clashing, dragons, the whole bit. While he was sitting on a toilet in the employee restroom. Gross! There’s a very good reason why soap, hot water and hand-drying implements are provided in restrooms. If your hands need washing, then imagine what your phone is picking up every time you whip it out on the pot. Think about it like this: would you stick your face on the toilet seat in a public restroom? No? That’s basically what you’re doing when you use your phone in a restroom.
- In the bedroom – bedrooms are meant for a select few activities. Sleeping, making love, getting dressed, and a very short list of other things. Facebook scrolling and Netflix binging are not among those activities. Unless you’re setting an alarm or streaming a romantic playlist, put the phone away. Be present with your spouse or get some quality sleep. Phones can be a mood killer for romantic moments and the light from the screen tells your brain to stay awake. Whether you’re trying to enjoy your spouse’s company or get some shut-eye, your phone will likely ruin the moment.
- Movie theater – this is rude and pointless. You literally just paid at least $10 so you could sit in the dark and enjoy a movie via a gigantic screen and huge speakers. So why would you pay that much and then stare at a little glowing screen. Then it’s not dark and you’re ignoring the giant screen you just paid for! Plus, your glowing screen and ringtone bother everyone else. They paid to be here, too, so let them enjoy the show. If you want to be on your phone, don’t come to the theater or go out in the hall.
- In class – I’m in college and have been for a few years now. I understand the draw of the phone in class, especially some of those boring Gen Ed courses. I’ve been there, pulling out my phone and checking texts, scrolling through Instagram and just wasting time. But why? Because we’re bored and can’t focus on one thing. That’s my excuse at least. But you’re in school! You’re paying (or somebody is paying for you) to be there. Although some lectures might be dull and some professors might be as dry as the Sahara, you might learn something important if you put away your phone and listen to the professor.
- While talking to other people – We have become a society of multiple conversations. While talking with friends, we’re texting somebody else, checking Facebook Messenger, and answering phone calls. It has become commonplace to say things like, “Hold that thought, I need to answer this.” We should respect those who we are physically present with. Sure, we miss those who aren’t physically there, but unless it’s an emergency or a once-a-year phone call, it can definitely wait.
Again, I’m not telling you how to live your life. These are merely suggestions to help you live a better, happier, more fulfilling life. Putting your phone away in these little moments will have a huge impact on you and those around you. You may find other times when you use your phone too often. Try to notice when and how often you pull your phone out during the day. I bet most of those times it was for nothing vital or important. Ask yourself: Why did I feel the desire to look at my phone? Was it boredom, a vibration, a new notification, to read something, to call someone?
I think if we can learn to put down our phones more often and live in the present moment, we will come to appreciate and enjoy the amazing things that are happening right now, all around us.
This month (September 2016) I’ll be promoting various books about Gratitude. Some I have read and others I have not. All of these are affiliate links, so I get some money if you buy them. Any money goes back into making this site better and more useful (and keeping it online!).
Also published on Medium.