Many of the things we invest our time and heart into, are in direct relation to the core values we hold in life. When we go out for dinner with our friends and family members and each individual keeps their eyes fixed upon the screen of their cell phone instead of the eyes of those they are in immediate relationship with, we are exercising our values. We may not be aware of it. If you were to ask each member around the table they would likely state their relationships with each other is most important, but the power of a little cell phone has the ability to turn some of those values upside down. Many of us are nurturing an unhealthy relationship with our cell phone.
No cell phone, text, or email shall be my master
How did we ever survive without the ability to text our parents and tell them the exact corner we are waiting at after practice to be picked up? Modern technology, with its numerous benefits to our daily lives, also has its downfalls.
I am waiting for the day when someone surgically implants Velcro to the palm of their hands to keep their cell phones attached to their bodies at all times. We live in a society of people who have deceived themselves to believe they cannot make it through the day, let alone the hour without being connected to someone in an instant.
Not only have some of us personally bought into this mentality, but we press it upon others. If we live glued to our cell phone, spend hours in front of our computer, or text numerous times throughout the day, we expect others to do the same. When we send an email we send it with an expectation that the receiving person will jump to attention and reply within a given amount of time. The problem is, we all have differing unspoken rules about the adequate, socially acceptable amount of time in which an email or text must be replied.
Giving someone my full attention and eye contact as they share their story, is an important element in building trust in a relationship. If I were to wander my eyes around the room and interrupt your story with conversations to others passing by, I would in essence be telling you, “What you are saying to me is not important. Something or someone more important to me just came in the room”. Personally, I choose not to share the things that matter to me with those who portray such lack of care. It is why I don’t jump when my cell phone pings with a text message or another email which wants to unknowingly compete with the relationship or task at hand. I will answer in due time. The value of building relationships: eye contact, listening, caring in the here and now takes precedence.
No, I am not screening your call, I do not have any screening device on my home phone. Unless I see an 877-number calling on my cell, I am not screening you. You are important to me also, but if I answered every call, email, text at the moment it was sent, (assuming I actually hear the call), I would not get a single productive thing done in my day! I would go nuts with that kind of imbalance. I will not allow any cell phone, text, email or social media to be my master.
Just say, “No”
Do you ever wonder why doctor’s offices, movie theatres and churches have to place signs and make public announcements to teach us when not to use our cell phones? Granted, it is easy to forget to turn off the ringer, but why do we have to be told in the first place? We have allowed the mighty cell phone to pull our chain wherever we go, thinking we will miss out on some conversation, some relationship, some event if we are not available 24/7. This is simply not true.
When we fail to set technological boundaries in our lives, then we give the false impression that we are working 24 hours a day, we are accessible at all times, and others hold control over our every waking hour. The lack of boundaries could overwhelm anyone! I hear this topic of frustration come up frequently across the generations.
Recently my son told me, “My friend is texting me more than 5 times a day. I don’t have time to return the texts all day. I don’t know what to do.” He was experiencing anxiety over the pressure to be available to his friend at any given moment. I suggested he practice what one of his friends does; turn off his phone for a few hours a day. Leave the phone in his bedroom while he visits with the family or goes bike riding. His friends will still be around at the end of the day.
I often wonder how I would have handled cell phones and social media when I was in school. My guess is, I would not have gotten many of those 20 page papers written, at least not well. I would have been too busy socializing, planning, pursuing, and cooing with my friends.
The distractions of on-demand communication is a “greater threat to IQ and concentration than is smoking marijuana”, according a recent study. The obligation to reply to every message slows down the brain and our ability to stay focused. This addictive behavior has been studied recently by psychologists. “The anticipation of something good keeps us checking something routinely”, states Dr. Daniel G. Amen, in his book “Magnificent Mind at any age” .
5 suggestions for balancing your relationship with technology
1. Keep hours. Decide to check and answer emails or social networks during specific times of the day. Perhaps once in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Maybe even less.
2. Don’t jump to answer your cell at every moment it beckons you. If you are in the middle of a task or conversation, discipline yourself to ignore it until you are free.
3. Provide an emergency plan for reaching you through text or cell if necessary. I send texts to my husband throughout the day without receiving his replies. I know he is busy at work. But, if I call him three times in a row, he will pick up or return my call quickly, knowing it is an emergency.
4. Don’t keep people waiting for your reply for an excessive amount of time. It is appropriate to text them and say, “I can’t talk at the moment, can I give you a call tomorrow morning?”
5. Let the people you are presently with know they are a priority to you. Keep your cell phones tucked away, and concentrate on making eye contact and building relationship with the person. An exception would be for those who are caretakers, parents, or expecting an emergency call. In that case, I always tell my friends, “I will only get this if it is my kid’s school calling”.
Sound off! Tell me what you think about our relationship to technology.