Are you aware that app designers regularly, intentionally put features in their apps to make them as addictive as possible? In this article Tristan Harris, a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist, explains how technology hijacks people's minds and how it happens. We're being manipulated in powerful, addictive ways and it's incredibly easy to get sucked in. Here's a helpful article from HelpGuide that explains compulsive/addictive smartphone behavior, helps you assess where you're at personally, and gives tips for breaking the addiction - giving you a legit shot at redefining your relationship with your smartphone.
Why do I call it "redefining" your relationship with your smartphone? Because there's simply no denying that smartphones, apps, and social media can add tremendous value to our lives but we need to consciously (re)decide what role it will play in our lives. The tech isn't the problem - we are! While social media can and does give us a fun and effective way to stay connected to people we care about no matter where they are, it also creates relationship issues for us. For example, look at your Facebook "friend" list. How many of them do you sincerely consider your friends? Are they really important enough to you to allow them and their thoughts to pull you out of the current moment with your partner or kids when they post a cute video or link to something funny (which if you're honest really isn't important at all)? If it's important to you to be fully present in the moment then consciously deciding what is and isn't important enough to forego the peace that comes only in the current moment (as wonderfully explained by Thich Nhat Hanh in Peace is Every Step and by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now is so very important. To me redefining my relationship with my smartphones means turning off non-critical notifications, leaving the phone "in the drawer" whenever possible, having specific times in the day to surf or connect with friends, committing to not use the phone in the car unless making important calls using a headset, and consciously deciding that the current moment and place I'm in deserves my full presence.
We all get to decide what role tech plays in our lives. What works for me may not work for you at all. What worries me is that there are entire generations today that may be completely and thoroughly addicted to this stuff and not know any other way to be. Yeah I know that makes me sound old, but based on my own family phone bills I have an idea how much time kids spend online or texting and you don't have to look far to see kids completely absorbed in their phones in public places. What will real, in-person relationships and conversations be like for them? To make it more clear, unconscious use of smartphones and apps (Pokemon Go, anyone?) can be dangerous. A couple months ago I actually watched the young girl driving the car next to me - while typing something into her phone - run right into the car in front of her. Without braking. I also had the experience of being rear ended by distracted drivers twice in the past 6 months. Luckily nobody was hurt in either case - but you get my point.
In full disclosure I'm a long-time techie, a gadget guy to be sure. Because of my work in the tech industry I was a very early adopter on smartphones and I normally have more of them with me than I care to 'fess up to. I've decided to redefine my relationship with my smart phone(s) and also with social media (yeah I see the irony here). I'm so thankful and appreciative of the support I'm getting on this from my the Love of my life, because in any relationship it'll take mutual understanding, compassion, collaboration, support, patience, and communication to make meaningful change in this area. Are you ready to go there?