I tease my wife that one of my goals in life is for her to look upon me with the smile and happiness that often fills her face after reading something funny, interesting or touching on her phone. (She doesn’t appreciate this.) I have a son. I wonder from time to time if removing his right hand and surgically implanting his phone to replace it might lead to greater efficiency in his life. I have to admit that many times it is quite hard not to pull out my phone when I find myself with a spare moment of time. Sometimes a mere “verification touch” of my phone in my pocket creates an impossible to resist urge to check and see if I am missing something important.
I think this is reality for many people. I have to say, I like part of this reality, but part of it is just awful. The part that is awful is when I realize that I have ignored a person in front of me for a person not in front of me. (or much, much worse a non-person, not in front of me that is digitally distracting me with some non-essential information) In that moment the person in front of me, even if they are a naturally confident, self-assured person, has some level of concern that I may not value them particularly highly. In that moment I don’t love the person in front of me well.
How do we decrease the number of times that we “pay forward” this feeling?
Are you ready…
I don’t think you are…
Keep your phone in your pocket more often.
This thunderbolt of an epiphany hit me not terribly long ago. At once I knew I was onto something, but soon afterward I began to realize all of the learned behaviors I had accumulated since 2008. I contemplated whether I really needed to make keeping my phone in my pocket a life goal. I searched for some other, better, easier way. Soon I begrudgingly accepted that it really was very important, not just for me but for all of mankind. I peered into a future where a lot of now deeply ingrained habits would have to change.
I’m still learning new strategies and retraining my mind, but below are some things I have found to work.
Remove Facebook from your phone.
I’ve been clean for two months now. My brain is still detoxing, but I think it likes its new found freedom. It was the craziest and most simple thing. I was sitting in church fighting the urge to look at something on my phone. (Man! The first world has so many significant, insurmountable challenges.) I realized how much I really, really wanted to touch that Facebook icon. I took my thumb and touched it. I couldn’t resist! But I left it on the button just long enough and a funny thing happened. My phone informed me of an option that I had not even contemplated. I could remove the app by just dragging it over a few inches. In a moment of great impulsivity, I just did it. Wow! That felt good. After I figured out how to wipe out Facebook cookies and learned to never navigate to Facebook via my phone web browser (which adds the cookies back), I stopped getting a lot of notifications I really didn’t want. I also no longer had a significant, marginally beneficial, time wasting option available to me. My phone stays in my pocket more often now. FYI – I still use Facebook, but I have to use a computer and a web browser. I asked an Amish guy for help on how to do it. I call it Facebook Retro or Old School Facebook. My friends can make fun of me for being an old man, but when they do, I am looking at them (and not my phone) a lot more often.
Search That Fact You Can’t Remember Later
This one is tough. I like knowing things. I like appearing to know things even more. I like definitive answers. I really like definitive answers when terrible suggested answers have been proffered. I desperately feel that I need to know who sang “Too Shy” from time to time. (Kajagoogoo) Even though all of these things are true for me, I find that if the piece of information is really important to me, I’ll look it up when people are not around. If I forget about it in the interim, it turns out the information wasn’t really important. The reality is if I look it up when someone is in front of me, I know I will have a high rate of recidivism. I may snap out of my self-absorbed malaise in a reasonable amount of time. That’s when I realize I must show them a funny video that I just remembered that they don’t really care about or like very much. I apologize that they couldn’t hear the sound better and attempt to explain why I thought it was so funny when I first watched it. They in turn break out their phone to show me the latest thing they have seen which they think is funny or informative which I don’t care about. We’re in a time wasting arms race here! I’m hoping they don’t go nuclear and break out their iPad Pro.
Turn Off Non-Essential Notifications From Non-Humans
Stop the insanity! (insert Susan Powter voice)
The dinging and chiming and God forbid! old school telephone sounds have to stop. You don’t have to silence your phone for the rest of eternity, but you do have to manage your settings. I know that this is a lot of work, and you don’t want to do it right now, but stop and DO IT RIGHT NOW! You will be glad you did. Afterward when you hear a chime and you get that “somebody out there likes me” feeling, you will look at your phone and realize that someone out there really likes you. You won’t get whipsawed when you discover that your Great Aunt just posted five tips on how to avoid being abducted when you are riding public transportation in Bosnia.