It doesn’t matter where you go.  Take a moment and look around at the people around you.  Chances are most of them are looking down at a phone, have headphones on, or are doing something else to keep themselves from being bored; especially in any sort of “waiting” environment like fast food restaurants, pharmacies, airports, etc.  Nevertheless, I know I’ve seen my “non-waiting” fellow humans walking, looking down, and running into all sorts of things. A quick youtube search and you’ll see all sorts of phone accidents.

What is so important that they need to split their attention like that?  Sadly, most of us don’t even realize how much we are reliant on the stimulation these devices provide us.  There are many companies out there whose sole profession is to figure out how to keep you glued to their content for as long as possible and they are scary good at it.  The timing of the notifications, your current location, specific word choices, even using odd vs even numbers, are all geared to get us to spend time on their content.

It works very well and don’t get me wrong, targeted marketing is not a bad thing in and of itself.  Where it becomes dangerous is when we don’t realize it is happening. It’s all about making technology work for you and not the other way around..

Let’s talk sales/specials real quick because it’s a pet peeve of mine.  However, I admit, I have to pay close attention because it gets me, too.  I hear so often that something is a “good deal.” Very rarely do you truly find a “good deal.”  It’s all about whether you decided to buy before or after you saw a special/advertisement. For example:

  • Good deal:  I decided I’m going to buy a sewing machine.  I begin shopping and find a deal that gives me a discount on a sewing machine.  I buy the sewing machine.
  • Bad deal:  I received an email from a store saying I have a 0% interest promotion available on home entertainment packages. I say to myself, “You know, they are right.  I do need a new TV for our Super Bowl party.” I decide to buy the new TV.

Sorry, I digress a little.  However it all falls into the same realm of being masters of our attention.  We visited some family a little while ago and my brother-in-law talked to me about how he is tracking his “screen time” now.  I thought that was very admirable so I decided to give it a try too.

It was amazing how I was much more conscious about using my phone.  I realized that I had formed a habit that at the slightest sign of downtime/boredom, I pulled out my phone to check my notifications.

“On average, we unlock our phones about once every six minutes”

I also recognized that usually when a notification went off, it didn’t matter what I was doing, I would check it; whether I am in a conversation with someone, walking, or even driving.  After realizing how often I was doing that (not to mention the safety factor of distracted walking/driving), I decided to turn off all notifications except for phone calls and text messages.

It was quite the adjustment not having all those notifications.  I remember turning on my phone and just swiping between the pages of apps because I didn’t know what to do.  That’s when the habit was glaringly obvious…I habitually looked at my phone at the first sign of boredom and relied heavily on notifications for what to do.

I challenge you to take some observations over the holidays when you are with your families.  Leave your phone out of your reach and pay attention to how often people get on their phones. It can be quite eye opening.  Families are already spending less quality time with each other and cell phone addiction compounds the problem.

“Cell phone users increase, marketing results increase, spending increases, debt increases, work hours increase to pay for the debt, family time decreases because people are working, gifts replace quality time with friends and family, materialism increases, kids use phones because they see their parents using them, and it keeps going…it’s a vicious trend that we need to break.”    

People aren’t bored enough

When people are bored, they are forced to think, be creative, and interact.  Imagine the world we would live in if whenever someone was bored, they paused and thought creatively rather than check the latest gossip online.  I’m not really a betting man, but I would bet on the progress and success of a civilization of interactive creative thinkers any day.

All this to say, make sure you are using your technology to serve you.  Technology is amazing and can drastically improve our lives…I’m a nerd and proud of it :). The most important part of our ever growing reliance on technology is that we stay in control of its usage!

So for the holidays when you are with your loved ones, dedicate some screen time for some personal development (like reading this blog :)), then put the phone down and be present with them.  Don’t sit on the couch with your head down in search for the next gossip topic or “good deal.”

It’ll be hard at first to disconnect but you’ll soon realize that it’s the only way to truly connect! And don’t worry, the irony is not lost on me that you are probably reading this on a phone. 🙂 Moderation and control is key. Use technology to better yourself!


Merry Christmas!

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